Recognizing The First African American Dentist during Black History Month

We would like to recognize the pioneer African American women who became dentists during this Black History Month.

Dr Ida Gray Nelson Rollins was the first African American female to graduate from a dental school.  Back in 1890, Dr Ida Gray Nelson Rollins graduated from the University of Michigan College of Dentistry after working for three years in the dental office of the dean of the school, Dr Johnathan Taft. Dr Rollins was born in 1867 and died in 1953.  The University of Michigan posted a short biography, photos of her graduating class and even her report card! It is fascinating!  See photos and read the article….    In another article, Phylisha W Agbor, a contributor to, posted that in 1895 Dr Rollins and her husband moved to Chicago.  Dr Rollins was the first African American to practice dentistry in Chicago.  Read more about Dr Rollins… 

Dr Vada Watson Somerville was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Southern California in 1918. She and her husband were attributed as creating the first NAACP chapter in Los Angeles in 1913.


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