John Stewart Rock was one of America’s first black doctors and lawyers. He is said to have coined the phrase “Black is beautiful” in one of his abolitionist speeches.
He was born to free parents who helped him be educated to become a teacher at 19. He later went on to study medicine under the guidance of two white doctors. In 1952 he graduated from the American Medical College in Philadelphia. He moved to Boston and opened a practice as well as working as a teacher at a night school for African-Americans.
The Vigilance Committee, an abolitionist group, hired him to treat escaped slaves and serve as their educator.
He became one of the first Black lawyers to be admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1861. And in 1865 he became the first Black lawyer admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court.
Throughout his adult life, he traveled across New England as a speaker for the abolitionist movement and often spoke of the “inherent beauty” of Black people.