Georgia’s Second Female African American Dentist
Dr. Annie Yarborough may or may not have been the first African-American female dentist to practice dentistry in the State of Georgia, but she was certainly the second African-American woman ever to be awarded a license by the state. Dr. Yarborough was the first woman ever to practice her profession outside of Athens, Georgia, where Dr. Ida Mae Hiram hung her out her shingle in 1910.
Born Annie E. Taylor on July 18, 1882 in Eatonton, Georgia, Dr. Yarborough was the mulatto daughter of the Rev. Hilliard Taylor and Anna E. Pennaman. Her maternal grandfather, Morris Penneman, was a successful farmer and mill right and for his time a large landowner among a small group of former slaves who owned land in post Civil War Georgia.
Annie attended the public schools of Eatonton. After she graduated from high school in 1896, Annie enrolled at the Atlanta University. Life was difficult for Annie and her family after Rev. Taylor died all too young. She was educated in the field of education and took her first job in her hometown. Miss Taylor moved out of town and taught in the Putnam County schools before moving to Jasper, Dodge and Laurens Counties. In her spare time and between school terms, Annie was quite a successful dressmaker and fancy seamstress.
It was during her tenure in Laurens County that Annie met Dr. Adolphus Yarborough. They fell in love and married on February 22, 1906. Adolphus Yarborough learned his dental skills while working as an office boy. Before he entered Dental School, Adolphus worked as a porter. He was regarded by many as the best mechanical dentist of his race in Georgia. Adolphus Yarborough, born in September 1881, was a son of Nelson and Charley Yarborough and was the first African American dentist to practice in Laurens County. When they first got married, Adolphus and Annie lived in his father's home on Marion Street in Dublin.
Annie longed to work beside her husband. Adolphus' office hours and home visits rarely allowed the couple to see each other, so Annie made up her mind that she was going to become a dentist. There was only one problem. There were no black female dentists and Georgia and no black dental schools in the state either.
Annie had to leave Dublin and move to Nashville, Tennessee where she enrolled at Meharry Medical College. During her first year at Meharry, Annie was elected to teach sewing and domestic science at Walden University. In another rarity, Annie was both a student and a teacher at the same time.
In the spring of 1910, Annie Taylor Yarborough walked across the stage and accepted her diploma as a graduate. Dr. Ida Mae Hiram, credited as the first female African-American dentist in Georgia was also a member of Class of 1910. Later that same year Dr. Hiram passed the dental board examinations and joined her husband in their dental office in Athens. It would be another year before Dr. Yarborough would be officially licensed to practice in Georgia.
Dr. Yarborough was active in the Baptist Church. She was an outstanding member of the Household of Ruth and the Court of Calenthe.
The onset of World War I provided new opportunities for dental students and practicing dentists as well. Black dentists finally thought this may be their chance to expand their practices beyond their own race. Applications to the newly created Dental Reserve Corps poured in. Annie Yarborough was one of the first to apply. On June 6, 1917, just two months after the United States officially entered the war, Dr. Yarborough volunteered for service. Her two brothers had served in the 9th and 10th Cavalry during the Spanish American War and at the age of thirty four, Annie believed it was her duty to serve her country. She informed the Army that she was one of the few female dentists in her state (either black or white) and had completed four years of dental education at Meharry College.
Four weeks later, the office of the Surgeon General of the Army issued its standard denial of all women applicants, though the offer was appreciated. As the war progressed, the policy of no women in the Dental Corps changed.
During, or shortly after the war, the Yarboroughs divorced. Annie, with no children, changed her name back to her maiden name and lived in a house at 626 South Jefferson Street in Dublin with her mother and her sister Leola Smith and her husband Henry.
Following the 1920 Census, Dr. Annie Taylor seems to vanish from Dublin. I could find no records of her. Perhaps she, like her father, died young. Maybe she moved to another town. Who knows? If you know, contact me immediately.
Dr. Annie Taylor Yarborough was a woman of high integrity, high education and one whom all of Laurens County can rightfully and deservedly be proud of.