From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

McKay, Barney M. [McDougal]

(born: 1859  -  died: 1925) Barney McKay was born in Nelson County, KY and according to F. N. Schubert, was the son of Barney McKay and Mary McDougal. McKay was a journalist, civil rights activist, veteran, author, and supporter of African American migration.

Barney McKay left Kentucky and became a Pullman porter. He lived in Jeffersonville, IN, where he was employed at the car works of Shickle and Harrison as a iron puddler. In 1881, he joined the U.S. Army in Indianapolis, IN under the name of Barney McDougal and served with the 24th Infantry, Company C. He was honorably discharged in 1892. He re-enlisted as Barney McKay and served with the 9th Cavalry, Company C and Company G.

In 1893, Sergeant Barney McKay was charged with distributing an incendiary circular among the troops at Fort Robinson, NE. The circular, published by the Progress Publishing Company of Omaha, NE, promised retaliation against the civilians of Crawford, NE should there continue to be racial violence toward Negro soldiers. There was no proof that Sergeant McKay had distributed the circular, yet Lieutenant Colonel Reuben F. Barnard was convinced of his guilt; Sergeant McKay had received a package of newspapers from the Progress Publishing Company of Omaha and had a copy of the circular in his possession. Also, Sergeant McKay and four other soldiers had prevented a Crawford mob from lynching Charles Diggs, a veteran, who had served with the 9th Cavalry. Sergeant McKay's actions and the circular were enough for the Army to charge him with violating Article of War 62 by attempting to cause the Negro soldiers to riot against the citizens of Crawford. Sergeant McKay was confined, subjected to court-martial, and found guilty. On June 21, 1893 he was reduced to the rank of private, given a dishonorable discharge, and sentenced to two years in prison.

When released from prison, Barney McKay was not allowed to re-enlist in the U.S. Army. He settled in Washington, D.C., where he met and married Julia Moore in 1900. The couple lived on 17th Street [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. Barney McKay was working as an assistant for the law firm Lambert and Baker at that time. The following year, he was employed by John W. Patterson, Attorney and Counselor at Law [source: ad in Washington Bee, 4/6/1901, p. 8]. He had also been a newspaper man, writing newspaper articles and serving as editor of the Washington Bureau of the Jersey Tribune, 80 Barnes Street, Trenton, NJ. He was also editor of the New England Torch-Light, located in Providence, RI.

In 1901, Barney McKay was with the Afro-American Literary Bureau when he pledged that 5,000 of the most industrious Negroes from the South would be willing to leave the prejudice of the United States for freedom in Canada. The pledge was made during the continued migration of southern Negroes to Canada. Author Sara-Jane Mathieu contributes two things to the story of the exodus: One, in 1896 the Supreme Court upheld the Plessy v. Ferguson decision; and two, Canada's homesteading campaign of 1896 provided free farmland in Western Canada.

McKay promoted the migration in the newspapers. In July 1901, Barney McKay was Sergeant-at-Arms of the newly formed Northern, Eastern, and Western Association, also known as the N. E. & W. Club [source: "N. E. and W. Club," The Colored American, 7/13/1901, p. 4]. The organization was established to coordinate the Negro vote for the 1902 Congressional elections. Barney McKay published The Republican Party and the Negro in 1904 and in 1900 co-authored with T. H. R. Clarke the Republican Text-Book for Colored Voters. In 1916 he co-authored Hughes' Attitude Towards the Negro, a 7-page book containing the civil rights views of Charles Evans Hughes' taken from his judicial decisions while a member of the U.S. Supreme Court [alternate credits: Henry Lincoln Johnson, editor. B. M. McKay, associate editor].

Barney McKay also wrote letters advocating the safety and well-being of Negroes in the South and the education of future soldiers. He called for the best representation of the people in government and fought for the welfare of Negro war veterans. He wrote a letter protesting the commander of the Spanish American War Veterans' support of the dismissal of the 25th Infantry in response to the Brownsville Affair [source: p. 191, Barney McKay in On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert]. In 1917, McKay wrote New Mexico Senator A. B. Fall (born in Frankfort, KY), asking that Negroes from the South be allowed to migrate to New Mexico [source: Promised Lands, by D. M. Wrobel]. New Mexico had become a state in 1912, and Albert B. Fall [info] was one of the state's first two senators.

In 1918, McKay wrote a letter to fellow Kentuckian Charles Young asking his support in establishing a military training program for Negro men at Wilberforce College (now Wilberforce University; in Ohio).

Barney M. McKay died April 30, 1925 and is buried in US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Washington, D. C. [McKay's birth date and birth location information were taken from the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments.]

For more see the Barney McKay entry in On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert; Sergeant Barney McDougal within the article "Chaplain Henry V Plummer, His Ministry and His Court-Martial," by E. F. Stover in Nebraska History, vol. 56 (1975), pp. 20-50; Voices of the Buffalo Soldier, by F. N. Schubert; North of the Color Line, by Sarah-Jane Mathieu; and Barney McKay in Henry Ossian Flipper, by J. Eppinga.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Nelson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McKay, Barney M. [McDougal],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-12 17:22:31