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The Center on Colfax

Florynce Kennedy (1916 - 2000)


Flo Kennedy at “Outreach Women” TV Program. 1976. Photo by Bettye Lane.

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy was an African American lawyer who was heavily involved in both the civil rights and women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She was also involved “in Black Power movements and in the fledgling National Organization for Women (NOW). She took on lightning rod cases, representing clients including the Black Panthers and the woman who shot Andy Warhol. When NOW became too mainstream for her, she founded the Feminist Party to support the presidential run of Rep. Shirley Chisholm in 1972.” Kennedy was born in Kansas City, Missouri on February 11, 1916. After joining the Kansas City branch of the NAACP in the 1930s, she organized a boycott of a local Coca-Cola bottler that refused to hire Black workers. She also sustained a lifelong back injury after being attacked by a white mob when she and her sister refused to leave a segregated restaurant at a Missouri bus station. Eventually she was able to sue the bus station and obtain damages. Kennedy’s activism started in her parent’s home. Leading by example, her parents were also activists and allowed for Florynce to have a great amount of sexual freedom.

She moved to New York City in 1943. While there, Kennedy found that the city offered good jobs and educational opportunities. Eventually she began to attend Columbia University as an undergraduate, and then Columbia Law School. Her ideas about the collective power of the Black community became more defined at the 1967 Black Power Conference in Newark, New Jersey, which was attended by more than one thousand black men and women from around the United States, Caribbean, and Africa. The conference highlighted things like Black people defending themselves from white terrorism, and “warned whites of the radical change in Black people.” Kennedy came to Colorado several times to speak about her activism. She came to speak at Colorado State University in 1972 about the “Politics of Oppression,” with her talk sponsored by a couple of student groups. In 1974, she came to speak in Fort Collins. The lecture covered things such as life as an African American, oppression, Nixon, and more. The 1st National Conference on Violence Against Women was held in Denver, co-sponsored by Safe House and the Center for Community Services as Metropolitan State College. Florynce Kennedy, along with Del Martine and Catherine Schurr, held a panel discussion on "Theory and Overview." Florynce Kennedy died in 2000, at the age of 84.