Meet Robert Tanner Freeman, the First African American Dentist

Robert Tanner Freeman

Born in 1846, Robert Tanner Freeman was a child of slaves. However, he grew up to make history as the first professional Black dentist in America. According to, Freeman "befriended Henry Bliss Noble, a local white dentist in the District of Columbia," and "began working as an apprentice to Dr. Noble and continued until he was a young adult." This led to Freeman applying to multiple dental colleges.

However, Freeman faced trials in the process of receiving his training, as he was rejected by two medical schools, even with his previous experience. Yet, he did not give up, and with the recommendation of Dr. Noble, Robert Freeman applied and was "accepted into Harvard Medical School in 1867 at the age of 21."

Upon graduating two years later, Freeman along with a fellow classmate named George Franklin Grant became the first African American dentists in the United States. Freeman started his own practice and became successful, not only as a dentist but as a trailblazer for future graduates and doctors. Freeman was later honored by the National Dental Association, whose only predecessor was even titled the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society.