Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson is credited for being the principal organizer of the first rural branch of the N.A.A.C.P. He devoted his entire adult life to the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans.
Henderson was born on November 24, 1883, to William and Louisa Henderson. His father was a day laborer and his mother, a homemaker, who taught him to read at a young age. As a young boy, he spent a significant amount of time reading at the nearby Library of Congress.
An honor roll student at M Street High School in Washington, D.C., Henderson was also a member of the school’s baseball, football, and track and field teams. He earned a B.A. degree from Howard University, an M.A. degree at Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in athletic training from Central Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Missouri. After completing his education, he began a distinguished teaching career in the black public schools in Washington, D.C. He later continued his own education studying physical education at the Harvard Summer School of Physical Education.
While attending Harvard, Henderson was introduced to the new discipline of physical education and the sport of basketball. He later took the game of basketball to the African American communities of Washington, D.C., New York, New York, and other East Coast cities. For 25 years, Henderson served as the Director of the Department of Physical Education for the District of Columbia’s segregated black schools. Some students Henderson coached, taught, and mentored included Charles R. Drew, Montague Cobb, and Duke Ellington.
Henderson was also served as the first academic researcher of African Americans in sports. His articles appeared in a number of black periodicals including Crisis, The Messenger, and the Negro History Bulletin. Between 1910 and 1913, he co-edited the Spaulding sports equipment company’s Official Handbook of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of the Middle Atlantic States which chronicled the birth of organized sports among African Americans on the East Coast.
Among Henderson’s many accolades was his 1974 induction as a founding member of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in New York City. He has as often been referred to as the “The Father of Black Basketball.” Edwin Bancroft Henderson died on February 3, 1977. He was 93.