Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts

Jessie Katherine Garnett

Jessie Katherine Garnett (née Gideon) was the first black woman to graduate from the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1919. Born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1897, she and her family moved to Boston eleven years later, settling first in Boston, and then moving to Roxbury in 1913. Garnett attended Girls’ High School and the Tufts Dental School. In her graduating class at the dental school she was the only black student out of 235 and the only black woman out of ten female students . After her graduation, Garnett went on to become the first black female dentist in Boston, her office was built behind her home in Roxbury. For fifty years she practiced dentistry until arthritis caused her to retire .

Garnett was a productive member of her community, always engaged in civic affairs concerning Roxbury. She was a member of the NAACP, the Urban League, was on the Board of Directors of the Boston YWCA, member of the Freedom House and St. Mark Congregational Church. She, along with six other college-educated black women, was also one of the charter members of the Psi Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. After her death, the chapter co-dedicated a scholarship in her name that was to go towards the support of black women in dentistry at Tufts Dental School.

Garnett married Robert Charles Garnett, a Boston police officer. The couple had two children, Robert Charles Jr. and Ella Isabelle.

In November 2009, Garnett was honored by the Heritage Guild and her house on 80 Munroe Street now has a plaque in recognition of her achievements .


Biography written and researched by Alejandra Garcia and Sari Mauro.


Vertical File Collection. Vertical files, G. Garnett, Jessie (Jessie Katherine Gideon) D1919. UA073.007.VF.00101. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Neal, Anthony W. "Dr. Jessie K. Garnett: The first black woman to practice dentistry in the Hub," The Bay State Banner, 19 May 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2018 https://www.baystatebanner.com/2016/05/19/dr-jessie-k-garnett-the-first-black-woman-to-practice-dentistry-in-the-hub/