On this day, 1 February in 1865, the first African American was sworn in as Supreme Court lawyer.
John Stewart Rock was an American teacher, doctor, dentist, lawyer, and abolitionist, historically associated with the coining of the term “black is beautiful”. Rock was one of the first African-American men to earn a medical degree.
Poor health forced him to give up his medical practice in 1859 (by 1861, he had also given up dentistry), the undaunted Rock pursued a career in law. In 1861, he was one of the first African Americans admitted to the Massachusetts Bar; in September of that year, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Boston and Suffolk County, Massachusetts. By then the country was at war, and throughout the conflict, Rock was a tireless advocate for the abolition of slavery. Like Frederick Douglass, he was an enthusiastic recruiter for the black volunteer regiments from Massachusetts. On February 1, 1865, the day after the House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, that same day, John S. Rock became the first African American admitted to practice at U.S. Supreme Court.
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