For Black History Month, we are profiling prominent African Americans who made a significant and historic impact on Kansas City Public Schools. We want to give credit and our gratitude to the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City and LINC for providing the images and information for this series.
Kansas City, February 27, 2020: Florynce ‘Flo’ Kennedy (1916-2000) was a civil rights attorney and feminist activist. Her controversial tactics and provocative tone drew criticism, but also helped publicize national debates on abortion, racism in the media, women’s equality, and consumer protection.
Kennedy was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood in Kansas City, MO, where her parents often had to protect them from the active local branch of the KKK. She graduated from Lincoln High School at the top of her class and then moved to New York City. Among other things, she owned a hat shop and worked as an elevator operator. She later became one of the first African-American women to graduate from Columbia University’s law school.
As an attorney, Kennedy represented activists such as H. Rap Brown and members of the Black Panthers as well as the estates of Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker against record companies that had withheld royalties. Kennedy later became an integral part of the feminist movement beginning in the 1970s. She toured the country on the lecture circuit, often with friend and fellow activist Gloria Steinem, while continuing to lead protests, including a rally outside the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York.