Entries - Race and Ethnicity: African American - Starting with K

K. Hall and Sons

K. Hall and Sons is a longstanding black-owned business on Wright Avenue in the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Originally founded as a produce store, it now also encompasses a restaurant and a wholesale food distribution business. The Hall family was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. K. Hall and Sons was founded by Knoxie Hall Sr. and Estella Marie Crenshaw Hall. Knoxie Hall was born on September 13, 1924, while Estella Hall was born on November 24, 1927. They married on December 16, 1944, and went on to have seven children. Knoxie Hall owned and operated several different businesses, including a carwash and detail business and a farm. His experience operating …

Karlmark, Gloria Cecelia Ray

Gloria Cecelia Ray Karlmark made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Gloria Ray was born on September 26, 1942, in Little Rock, one of the three children of Harvey C. and Julia Miller Ray. By the time Ray entered Central High, her father was retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he had founded the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service for Negroes, and her mother was a sociologist working for the state of Arkansas. Ray was a fifteen-year-old student at …

Kearney, James and Ethel

Thomas James (T. J.) Kearney (1906–2013), and his wife, Ethel Virginia Curry Kearney (1917–1982), were cotton sharecroppers. They were recognized for their contributions to childhood education and Christian service by the state of Arkansas; Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois; President William J. Clinton; and the country of Israel. Of the couple’s nineteen children, eighteen were college graduates. A number of their children served the state of Arkansas and the U.S. government in leadership roles. T. J. and Ethel Kearney are members of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. T. J. Kearney was born June 25, 1906, to Thomas Clayton (T. C.) Kearney and Cynthia Davis Kearney in Lake Village (Chicot County). His parents were itinerant farmers. T. J. was …

Kearney, Janis

Janis Kearney was the publisher of the historic Arkansas State Press and later served as presidential diarist to U.S. president Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001, the first such appointment in presidential history. After leaving Washington DC, she wrote several books and founded a publishing company. Janis Faye Kearney was born on September 29, 1953, in the small rural town of Gould (Lincoln County). She was the fourteenth of nineteen children born to sharecropper Thomas James Kearney and homemaker Ethel Curry Kearney, who also worked in the fields. By the time she was nine years old, Kearney was helping to care for her younger brothers and sisters as well as cooking for the large family. She spent evenings learning to …

Kees, Willie (Lynching of)

On April 29, 1936, a nineteen-year-old African-American man named Willie Kees was shot near Lepanto (Poinsett County) for allegedly attempting to attack a white woman. It was both the first recorded lynching in Poinsett County and the last recorded lynching in Arkansas. On April 18, Kees allegedly attacked the woman on a bridge just outside of town. She screamed, and two men came to her rescue. Kees was turned over to city marshal Jay May and put in jail. That night, May intercepted a mob that was coming to the jail to get Kees and dissuaded the citizens from doing so. He told reporters for the Arkansas Gazette that, because of the darkness, he was unable to identify anyone in the mob. Kees had …

Kendrick, Eddie Lee

Eddie Lee Kendrick was a self-taught artist who was inspired by the Arkansas landscape, his dreams, gospel music, and his Christian faith. Though Kendrick had drawn and painted all his life, his art was not well known until 1993, when three works were included in Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present, an exhibition organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and curated by Alice Rae Yelen. Eddie Kendrick was born on September 20, 1928, on a farm near Stephens (Ouachita County), and he lived in Arkansas most of his life. He was the first of fifteen children born to farmers John Henry and Rutha Mae Kendrick. Kendrick helped in the annual slaughter …

Kennedy, Cortez

Mississippi County native Cortez Kennedy was considered one of the best defensive tackles to have played in the National Football League (NFL). After an eleven-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, he retired in 2000. In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Cortez Kennedy was born on August 23, 1968, in Osceola (Mississippi County). He spent his first eighteen years in the small town of Wilson (Mississippi County), where he was raised by his mother, Ruby, and stepfather, Joe Harris. With few activities available in the rural setting, Kennedy turned to football, becoming a star defensive player at Rivercrest High School. His promising …

King, Albert

aka: Albert Nelson
Albert King, one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, was one of the three so-called “Kings of the Blues”—the triumvirate of B. B. King, Freddie King, and himself. His style of single-string-bending intensity—the essence of blues guitar—is evident in the approaches of thousands of acolytes, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton. King was born Albert Nelson on April 25, 1923, on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. He had twelve known siblings. His father, Will Nelson, an amateur guitarist, had a major impact on his music. Though he was mainly self-taught, he was inspired by Blind Lemon Jefferson. His singing in a family gospel group at a nearby church also influenced his music. He …

Kirkendall, Mose (Lynching of)

On July 20, 1878, an African American named Mose Kirkendall was hanged in Boone County for allegedly attempting to rape a “Miss Walters,” a young white woman. This was reportedly the first lynching in Boone County. Although there was no Mose Kirkendall recorded as living in Boone County at the time of the 1870 census, there was a thirteen-year-old named Moses Kirkendale living in the household of farmer J. M. Moore and his wife, America, near Searcy (White County). There were other unrelated people living with the family, including fifteen-year-old A. Kirkendale, who may have been Moses’s brother. The alleged victim may have been Martha Walters, who was thirteen years old by the 1870 census and one of six children …

KOKY

Called the “Greater Little Rock Ebony Station” at its inception in 1956, KOKY was the first radio station in Arkansas to be staffed by African Americans and to feature programming directed toward a black audience. Founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the station has featured on-air talent like Leo “Jocko” Carter and Al Bell. John M. McLendon was a thirty-three-year-old broadcaster from Jackson, Mississippi, who owned three radio stations in Mississippi, including WOKJ in Jackson; like KOKY, WOKJ’s target audience was African Americans. During the summer of 1956, McLendon was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a station in Little Rock called “Ebony Radio” until call letters could be established. At 9:00 a.m., October 8, 1956, …

Kountz, Samuel Lee, Jr.

Samuel Lee Kountz Jr. was a physician and pioneer in organ transplantation, particularly renal transplant research and surgery. An Arkansas success story, he overcame the limitations of his childhood as an African American in the Delta region of a racially segregated state to achieve national and world prominence in the medical field. Sam Kountz was born on October 20, 1930, in Lexa (Phillips County) to the Reverend J. S. Kountz, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Emma. He was the eldest of three sons. Kountz lived in a small town with an inadequate school system in one of the most impoverished regions of the state. He attended a one-room school in Lexa until the age of fourteen, at which point …