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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 being one of his playmates and 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, she moved to Falls Church, Virginia, and bought a house.
Henderson also became familiar with that area, 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, a teacher and civil rights advocate, active with the Girl Scouts and League of Women Voters. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to Falls Church, Virginia, 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) and 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 Blacks in Washington, D.C., in 1904. He was Washington's first Black male physical education teacher (possibly the first in the country).
From 1926 until his retirement in 1954, Henderson served as health and physical education director for Washington, D.C.'s black schools. Henderson taught blacks physical education and organized athletic activities in Washington, D.C., and Fairfax County, Virginia. A prolific letter writer to newspapers in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and Alabama (where he spent many of his last years), Henderson helped organize the Fairfax County branch of the NAACP. They twice served as President of the Virginia NAACP in the 1950s.
Before retiring 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 the Chesapeake Bay. The Hendersons remained married for 63 years until she died in 1976. Edwin Bancroft Henderson died on February 3, 1977.