Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived a man named Henry Perry who became known as The Barbecue King and the Father of Kansas City Barbecue as a restaurateur and skilled chef.
Henry Perry was born on March 16, 1874 in Shelby County, Tennessee. He began cooking and working at an early age, and was really good at it. Taking all of the skills he’d acquired working on steamboat restaurants on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, by 1920, he’d opened his own food stand in Kansas City, Missouri downtown where many Black-owned businesses prospered.
Henry Perry “The Barbecue King”
Henry Perry “The Barbecue King” opened his barbecue stand on 1514 E. 19th St in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Barbecue King served barbecued meats, o’possum, ground hog, coon, beef, port and even mutton (sheep/lamb).
Perry had a full ad in the paper, so he knew how to spread the word even though word of mouth from the taste of his meat was probably good enough. Therefore, he was a clever business man, chef and restaurateur.
The location of his Barbecue King stand was surrounded by many other Black-owned businesses (over 100 businesses) in the same district. Some of the businesses were:
- R. W. Alexander (Barbecue Meats) at 1619 E. 18th St.
- Mrs. E. Dora Thomas’ Spotless Kitchen, Steam Table Service
- Original “69” Barbecued Meats, Ice Cream and Refreshments owned by S. Matthews on 1010 North 3rd St.
There were other cafes in the area as well. Kansas City, Missouri was filled with Black lawyers, doctors, barbers, bakers, ice cream parlors, jewelers, salons, blacksmiths, furniture stores, hotels, insurance companies and more – all black-owned – and it was Perry’s barbecue that took over as far as the meats of the area.
It was highly important for Black businesses to list exactly where they were located so that the Black community could be served with decency and respect because segregation and racism ruled the United States of America. Unity was not in play. African Americans thrived because their dollars remained in the community.
The Barbecue King Robbed
In 1930, Henry Perry was held at gunpoint in a robbery by a 41 year old man named Bert Mosby who approached the Perry’s barbecue stand at 18th and Hiland Avenue when customers were being served. It was the customers who identified the assailant who ended up with life in prison for robbing Perry of $71, which is equal to about $1500 today .
The Barbecue King continued to prosper.
Death of Henry Perry
Henry Perry passed away on March 22, 1940 in Kansas City, Missouri, leaving behind a daughter Henrietta Elaine Lane. Where he was buried is not known, however, he passed of broncho-pnemonia due to an underlying infection. Although he passed a while ago, he leaves a grand memory and was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2014.
- The Kansas City Sun (Kansas City, Missouri)05 Jan 1918, Sat Page 8
- The Kansas City Sun (Kansas City, Missouri) 25 Jul 1914, Sat Page 2
- The Kansas City Times (Kansas City, Missouri)24 Jan 1930, Fri Page 13