Following the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, formally abolishing slavery, John Swett Rock, an abolitionist lawyer, achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first African-American to be admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court on February 1, 1865.
Born free on October 13, 1825, in Salem, New Jersey, Rock was not only a lawyer but also an educator and a dentist. He graduated from the American Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852 and established a dental practice in Boston, where he tended to escaped slaves seeking refuge through the Underground Railroad.
His tenure at the U.S. Supreme Court lasted only one year as health issues interrupted his career. At the age of 41, in 1866, Rock died due to tuberculosis.