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From Kenney Memorial Hospital to a Beacon for African American Healthcare in NJ


By: Richard L. Smith 

In celebrating the remarkable contributions to Black history in New Jersey, RLS Media takes day 22 to homage to Dr. John A. Kenney and his groundbreaking Kenney Memorial Hospital in Newark, a beacon of medical care and opportunity for the African American community.AdRecognized by both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, this institution symbolizes a significant chapter in our state's narrative.

Dr. Kenney, a trailblazer with humble Southern roots, emerged as a pivotal figure in African American medical history.

His editorial leadership at the Journal of the National Medical Association amplified the voices of Black medical professionals, fostering a robust platform for their invaluable insights and experiences.

In a brave stand against racial injustice, Dr. Kenney's advocacy for African American veterans at the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital in 1923 exemplified his courage and dedication to equality. Facing threats from the Ku Klux Klan, Dr. Kenney was compelled to relocate to Newark, where he continued his mission.


Confronted with racial barriers in Newark's medical establishments, Dr. Kenney's resilience led to the creation of Kenney Memorial Hospital in 1927. Self-financed and built from his determination, it became New Jersey's sole medical facility offering African Americans access to healthcare, training, and professional opportunities.

Dr. Kenney's legacy extends beyond Newark to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he also developed the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital.

His altruism shone brightly in 1934 when he gifted Kenney Memorial Hospital to the African American community, demonstrating his deep commitment to service and empowerment.


Decades after Dr. Kenney's passing, his impact deeply resonates. The site of Kenney Memorial Hospital, now the New Salem Baptist Church, is a testament to his vision and excellent spirit.

Dr. Kenney's life and work remind us that from humble beginnings can arise monumental change and enduring legacies.


When confronted with discord over the conversion of his private hospital in Newark to a community hospital, he stunned representatives of both opposing hospital committees by donating the hospital to the African American community of New Jersey on Christmas Eve 1934. Dr. Kenney once wrote, "despise not the day of small beginnings."Ad More than 50 years have elapsed since Dr. Kenney's passing. Who would have thought that those 30 hospital beds on West Kinney Street would have so much meaning today?

The historic site that was once Kenney Memorial Hospital is now New Salem Baptist Church".

INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: "Newark Care Facilities" Old Newark