Dr. Thomas A. Curtis was a pioneer dentist and civil rights leader who helped organize the Urban League and St. Louis NAACP branch.
Curtis was born in Marion, Alabama to parents who were slaves. His father later became the State Senator of Alabama and helped raise money to build a school, Lincoln Normal School. The school later became Alabama State University in 1867.
After completing his education at State Normal School, Curtis began a teaching career in Texas. However, he soon gave that up and entered Meharry Dental College. He graduated with honors in 1889 and became the first black dentist of Alabama.
As a dentist, Curtis was earning around $2,000 a year, which was a great income during that time. He eventually moved to St. Louis around 1896 where he set up practice. He remained there for the next forty-five years.
Being a prominent and influential man, Curtis got involved with civil rights. He helped organize various organizations and in 1912 helped with the founding of the St. Louis Argus, an African-American-oriented weekly newspaper.
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