Albert J. Kennedy was a pioneer in the U. S. settlement movement. He was associated with settlement work and the National Federation of Settlements for nearly sixty years. The social settlement was based on the idea that those who wanted to help the poor would live (“settle”) in the neighborhoods that they hoped to improve. They endeavored to improve the lives of their working class, often immigrant, neighbors though social reform, educational programs, health services, and "friendly example" or “uplift.” Kennedy's numerous studies of local communities and thoughtful reports on many aspects of settlement work provide insights into the nature of the settlements' work among their "neighbors" as well as a conceptual framework for the larger concerns of settlement workers. Unfortunately, little mention of Kennedy is made in standard biographical reference tools. The brief biography which follows is based on information found in the collection itself and an outline compiled by Mrs. Shirley Kennedy
Born January 20, 1879 in Rosenhayn, New Jersey, Albert Kennedy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1901 from the University of Rochester and graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary in 1904. After serving as a clergyman for a year in Granite Falls, Minnesota, he attended Harvard University as a Williams Fellow, 1905-1906, and as a South End House Fellow, 1906-1908. He was granted the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1907.
Kennedy was affiliated with South End House, Boston, as director of investigations (1908-1914), associate head worker (1914-1926), and head worker (1926-1928). During this time he also served as assistant secretary of the National Federation of Settlements (1911-1922), lectured at eastern colleges, conducted investigations in several areas of settlement work, and published numerous books and papers.
In 1922, while associate head worker at South End House, Kennedy became secretary of the National Federation of Settlements, a position he held until 1934. Throughout his tenure, he continued to conduct agency and community surveys. Of special interest to Kennedy at this time were music and visual arts in the settlements. Kennedy left South End House in 1928 to become head worker at the University Settlement in New York City. He remained there until 1944.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious undertakings of Kennedy's career was a nationwide interracial study, conducted under the auspices of the National Federation of Settlements. In the study, which was begun ca. 1945, Kennedy attempted to "gauge the progress of social, educational, and recreational opportunities available to African Americans in homogeneous and in interracial areas and neighborhoods." Correspondence, interviews, printed material, and questionnaires regarding local interracial programs make this part of the collection especially valuable.
In the late 1940's and early 1950's, community organization and research continued to be of interest to Kennedy. Several studies and papers from this period, including an extensive statistical analysis of cities and settlements, are contained in the collection.