Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America

By Patrick B. Miller; David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

14

EDWIN BANCROFT HENDERSON, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ATHLETES, AND THE WRITING OF SPORT HISTORY

David K. Wiggins

CHARLES DREW, WHO ATTENDED the prestigious Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., later starred in several sports at Amherst College, and eventually became a famous surgeon and blood bank pioneer, noted in a 1940 letter that he was very grateful to Edwin Bancroft Henderson. "I owe you and a few other men like you," Drew noted, "for setting most of the standards that I have felt were worthwhile, the things I have lived by and for and whenever possible have attempted to pass on." 1 Drew's comments, which came nearly ten years before his death in a tragic automobile accident, stemmed from an obviously deep admiration for Henderson, who had been both his teacher and mentor during his days as a student in Washington's segregated school system. 2

The Edwin Bancroft Henderson that Charles Drew so much admired was born on November 24, 1883, in Washington, D.C., to William and Louisa Henderson. He graduated in 1902 from the famous M Street School, attended Dudley Allen Sargent's celebrated Harvard Summer School of Physical Education (HSSPE), and headed the Department of Physical Education in Washington's segregated school system from 1925 until his appointment some twenty-six years later as Director of Physical Education, Safety, and Athletics. Henderson's career was marked by extraordinary accomplishments and many successes, both within and outside the physical education profession. He introduced basketball to black children in Washington, D.C., and organized the district's Public School Athletic League. He cofounded the Washington, D.C. Pigskin Club and helped establish such important organizations as the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association of Middle Atlantic States; the Eastern Board of Officials; the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAPHERD); the Colored Citizens Protection League of Falls Church, Virginia; and the Falls Church, Virginia, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Through his numerous organizational initiatives, Henderson fought against various forms of racial discrimination. He waged war against Jim Crow transportation facilities in Virginia, led campaigns to eliminate segregated recreational and organized sports programs on both the local and regional levels, and fought to prohibit southern states from excluding blacks from membership in local AAHPERD chapters. 3

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