Today: Dr. George Franklin Grant, the 1st African American Harvard Professor
If you think the odds are long against your success, you’ll especially enjoy today’s story. George Franklin Grant was born in Oswego, New York on September 15th, 1846, to Phillis Pitt and Tudor Elandor Grant. He was one of seven children.
For black people, schools were often segregated and money and resources were scarce. As a high school student, a level of education few black people then attained, George attended what became known as the Bordentown School in Bordentown, New Jersey, a school exclusively for African-Americans.
The school was started by Reverend Raymond Rice, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Rice, a former South Carolina slave and Civil War Volunteer who came to New Jersey for an education stayed to uplift his people. The school had its own farm, which supplied it with food and income and a place for scholarship students to earn their tuition.
Its 500 students could study farming and other practical trades as well as to study math, science, classical literature and Latin. The intent was to provide an education so African-Americans could become teachers but also for the rest of the students to find work in a highly segregated society.
George was an outstanding student and in 1868, he was selected as the first African-American to attend the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. It was a huge honor but a huge responsibility as George carried the hopes of his family and of many Black people for a better life and greater opportunity. If he succeeded it would help open doors for other African-Americans.
And succeed he did. He did so well that after graduating in 1870, George was offered a teaching position in the Dentistry school, making him Harvard’s first African-American faculty member and professor. He taught at Harvard for the next 19 years.
But George did even more. As a dentist and inventor, he became famous for inventing the oblate palate, a prosthetic device used in the treatment of a cleft palate. But there was something else he invented that had nothing to do with medicine that ironically made him even more famous.
George was an avid golfer and like many other golfers, found it hard to hit a ball on the grass for accuracy and distance. So he invented something which is used on golf courses and golf driving ranges everywhere in the world today: the golf tee.
Success Tip of the Week:
If your life is filled with rejection, think of George. He refused to accept the low standards set for African-Americans and the widespread segregation that closed most doors to them. Do as he did: Give life your best effort and keep knocking on doors. One will open for you and then another and another.
In the next KazanToday:
Immersed in heartache, the woman who uplifted her life by opening one of California’s 1st Bed & Breakfast inns and made it a success.