Florynce Rae Kennedy (1916–2000) was an American feminist, civil rights advocate, activist, and lawyer. Flo Kennedy was one of the first black female lawyers to graduate from Columbia Law School and a founding member of the National Organization of Women. She helped found the Feminist Party in 1971.
Kennedy was the second of 5 girls in her family. She grew up during the Great Depression in Kansas City, Missouri, but had a happy childhood with supportive parents that encouraged their girls to be adventurous. After the death of her mother, Kennedy moved to New York with one of her sisters. She enrolled at Columbia University School and majored in pre-law. However, after graduating in 1949, when she applied to the university’s law school, she was refused admission. Kennedy was told by the Dean that she was not rejected because she was black, but because she was a woman. She threatened to sue the school and was admitted. She was the only black person among the eight women in her class. She graduated in 1951 and opened her own law office.
Kennedy’s activism began before she graduated from law school and continued throughout her life. She was primarily an activist for feminism and civil rights. In the 1970s she traveled the lecture circuit with writer Gloria Steinem. Kennedy was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. In 1971 she founded the Feminist Party, which nominated Shirley Chisholm for president. She helped found the Women’s Political Caucus and In 1973 Kennedy co-founded the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) with Margaret Sloan-Hunter, which was created to deal with race and gender issues.
Kennedy worked tirelessly for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community utilizing her legal experience and bold personality to push social and political practices toward equality.
“I’m just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I’m crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I’m not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren’t like me.”
– Flo Kennedy