New cemetery marker honors Rock, black abolitionist, Boston lawyer

Issue September 2005

The memory of John Stewart Rock, the fourth African-American lawyer to practice in Massachusetts and the first to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, will be honored next month at a graveside observance in Everett.

Rock, who was born in Salem, N.J. in 1826 and died in Boston in 1866, endured a lifetime of struggles in advocating the abolition of slavery and equal rights for his people. He was nationally known for his oratorical and journalistic skills.

When the Salem County Historical Society in New Jersey learned that the existing gravestone of their native son had fallen and was broken, they raised funds to construct a replica that was put in place this summer.

The new granite monument will be dedicated Oct. 15 at a 10 a.m. graveside observance in Woodlawn Cemetery, 315 Elm Street, Everett. A noon reception will follow at the Beacon Hill site of the Museum of Afro-American History, 46 Joy St., Boston.

Rock's Boston church, the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, has partnered with the Salem County Historical Society to conduct the dedication observance. It will be officiated by the Reverend Arthur T. Gerald Jr., as part of that church's 200th Anniversary Celebration Year.

The Museum of Afro-American History is hosting the reception as a prelude to celebrating the 200th anniversary of its historic African Meeting House on Beacon Hill.

Rock was a teacher, dentist, physician, and lawyer. He appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 1, 1865.