When The KKK Attacked He Fought Back With A Stethoscope

A woman getting her blood pressure tested
Leslie Taylor-Grover
March 9, 2020

If you got sick before the 1950s, chances were you would either die for lack of care or be carelessly treated by a white doctor, if they would even see you. Why?

In the Jim Crow Era, endless limitations prevented Black doctors from properly treating their patients. While some Black hospitals existed, racially-biased white doctors and nurses often ran and staffed these spaces. If Black doctors had patients that needed to be hospitalized, by law they had to turn over those patients to white doctors. 

That is, until this man came along.

Dr. John A. Kenney was born to enslaved parents in Virginia in 1875. After successfully completing college and medical school, he worked with Booker T. Washington and eventually became his personal physician. He also became an activist and fought against laws that kept Black doctors out of hospitals. Then horror struck.

When he tried to integrate hospitals with Black and white doctors and nurses, the Ku Klux Klan burned down his house and tried to kill him. Still, he persisted and raised enough money to open the Kenney Memorial Hospital, named after his parents.

His legacy wasn’t finished, however. His children all became doctors, and led hospitals across the nation! Isn’t it amazing what we can achieve even in the face of hatred and adversity?

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