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Sat, 11.24.1883

Edward B. Henderson born

Edward B. Henderson

*Edwin Henderson was born on this date in 1883.  He was a Black educator, coach and pioneer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  

Edwin Bancroft Henderson was born in southwest Washington, D.C. His father, William Henderson, was a day laborer and his mother Louisa taught him to read at an early age. He often reminisced about Al Jolson having been one of his playmates, as well as how he watched racial segregation grow in Washington after the turn of the century, particularly during the Woodrow Wilson administration. His grandmother Eliza Thomas Henderson had a small store in Washington, but in 1882, moved to Falls Church, Virginia and bought a house.  

Henderson became familiar with that area too, spending summers there and sometimes working at that store. The family farm, bought about a decade later, had once been part of Camp Alger.  In 1904, Henderson graduated from Dunbar High School, then the Miner Normal School (later D.C. Teacher's College).  He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University, a master's degree from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in athletic training from Central Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Missouri. Henderson became the first Black man to receive a National Honor Fellowship in the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.  

In 1910, he married Mary Ellen (Nellie) Meriwether, also a teacher and civil rights advocate, as well as active with the Girl Scouts and League of Women Voters. They moved to Falls Church, Virginia shortly after their marriage, and both helped at the Henderson family store. They had two sons: Dr. James H. M. Henderson (who became director of Tuskegee's Carver Research Foundation), Dr. Edwin M. Henderson (who became a dentist in the District of Columbia).  Henderson took the colored streetcar line across the Potomac River to his job with the D.C. Public Schools.  Known as the "Father of Black Basketball," he introduced basketball to African Americans in Washington, D.C. in 1904, and was Washington's first Black male physical education teacher (and possibly the first in the country).

From 1926 until his retirement in 1954, Henderson served as director of health and physical education for Washington D.C.'s Black schools.  Henderson both taught physical education to Blacks and organized athletic activities in Washington, D.C. and Fairfax County, Virginia.  A prolific letter writer both to newspapers in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and Alabama (where he spent many of his last years), Henderson also helped organize the Fairfax County branch of the NAACP and twice served as President of the Virginia NAACP in the 1950s.  Shortly before his retirement from the D.C. Schools in 1953, Henderson received an Alumni Achievement Award from Howard University. The family also had a summer home at Highland Beach on Chesapeake Bay.  The Henderson’s remained married for 63 years until her death in 1976.  Edwin Bancroft Henderson died on February 3, 1977. 

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Poetry Corner

O’ de wurl’ ain’t flat,An’ de wurl’ ain’t roun’,H’it’s one long stripHangin’ up an’ down—Jes’ Souf an’ Norf;Jes’ Norf an’ Souf. —from Ariel Williams Holloway, “Northboun'” , 1926 “NORTHBOUND'” by Ariel Williams Holloway
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