Dentists who changed the world

Black. Lives. Matter.

Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND) stands in solidarity with Black members of our community.Our mission is to improve the oral health and happiness of Colorado children in need, by increasing health equity and oral health education for the most vulnerable.

In the late 17th century, African American patients had a tough time seeking proper dental care and dentists of color were even harder to come by. This Juneteenth, join us in discovering more about the African Americans who pioneered the field of dentistry and helped to further oral health and education.

Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman

Robert Tanner Freeman was born near Washington, DC, to slaves who had purchased their freedom. As a teen, he mentored under a local dentist, who encouraged him to pursue his skills. Robert Freeman was accepted as one of the first six people to study in the newly created Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Robert T. Freeman became the first professionally degreed black dentist in 1867. Following his graduation, Dr. Freeman opened a private practice back in his hometown, in the same building as his former mentor. He committed his life to giving back to others and mentored black youth who wanted to pursue careers in dentistry.

Dr. George Franklin Grant

George Franklin Grant was born in New York to Tudor Grant and Phillis Pitt Grant. Tudor was a runaway slave who became an ardent abolitionist and strong advocate for education, especially for his children. When he was 15, George worked as an errand boy for a local dentist and soon became his laboratory assistant and dental apprentice. He was invited to attend Harvard School of Dental Medicine and upon graduation, he took a position in the department of Mechanical Dentistry, making him Harvard University's first African-American faculty member. Dr. Grant taught at the School of Mechanical Dentistry for 19 years. He pioneered treatment for cleft palates with his inventions and skill, and even invented the wooden golf tee 🏌️‍♂️in his spare time!

Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins

Ida Gray was born in Tennessee in 1867 before moving to Ohio. Ida worked in the dental office of Jonathan Taft while attending a segregated public high school. Taft, who was the dean at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, was a vital early supporter of women dentists and encouraged her to apply to the University of Michigan. Her three years’ experience in Taft’s dental office helped her pass the entrance exam and in 1887 she graduated with her Doctorate of Dental Surgery as the first African American Woman dentist. After graduating, she returned to Ohio and opened a private practice and got married. Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins was a mentor and role model for her patients, even inspiring one of her patients, Olive M. Henderson, to go on to become the second African-American dentist in Chicago.

Sentio Sites | A Sensus Media Product