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Henderson House - FCCRH Traditional Cache

Hidden : 03/13/2012
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

A regular sized geocache marking a significant location for Falls Church Civil Rights History (FCCRH). Placed with permission to be wheelchair accessible from the sidewalk.

Henderson, Edwin Bancroft (24 Nov. 1883–3 Feb. 1977) physical educator, author, civil rights activist, and sports pioneer Henderson , Mary Ellen Meriwether (18 Sept. 1885–4 Feb. 1976) educator and civil rights activist.

The Hendersons were married for sixty-five years. Each worked for educational equality and social justice for African Americans for over fifty years. Both were born in Washington, D.C. Edwin was the eldest son of William Henderson, an employee of the Federal Bureau of Engraving, and Louisa Mars Henderson, who owned and operated a grocery store.

Mary Ellen was one of four children born to James Henry Meriwether, an attorney and Mary Louise Robinson Meriwether, a teacher and activist. Edwin and Mary Ellen met at Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C., where both were studying to become teachers. Edwin graduated in 1904 and Mary Ellen in 1905. They were married in 1910, and moved to Edwin's family home in Falls Church in Northern Virginia. (source: Oxford Press)

The house at this location was a Sears home built by Dr. E. B. Henderson and wife Mary Ellen Henderson, leaders of the African American community in Falls Church. Dr. Henderson was instrumental in fighting the segregation ordinance. He also fought many other battles for civil rights, was well-known as an editorial writer, and introduced black basketball in 1904.

Mary Ellen Henderson, E. B’s wife, was an educator, taught and ran the segregated school in Falls Church. After a twenty nine year battle, she was responsible for the construction of the first new school in the area for blacks. The Henderson home, with its surrounding land, survives and is occupied by Dr. and Mrs. Henderson’s grandson, Edwin B. Henderson, II and his wife, Nikki Graves Henderson.

Throughout the Colonial, Revolutionary, Federal, Civil War and Reconstruction eras, African and Euro-Americans lived adjacent or in close proximity to each other in Falls Church. In the late 19th century, with the rise of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan, there was a rising sentiment among Euro-Americans that African-Americans should not be allowed to reside near Euro-Americans.

In 1890, the (then) Town of Falls Church Council voted to cede over 1/3 of its jurisdiction back to Fairfax County because most of the residents were African-Americans. Historical accounts indicate that the underlying reason for the shrinking of the town limits were in reaction to the fear that African-Americans would control the voting outcome of local elections. On January 11, 1915, a delegation of African-American citizens called the Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL) was led by Joseph Tinner and Dr. E.B. Henderson and read papers objecting to the ordinance to the Town Council. The Council apparently did not respond to the objections and passed legislation strengthening the segregation ordinance. The new ordinance passed 4-1, with Council member Harmon voting nay.

On January 18, 1915, the CCPL met at the home of E.B. Henderson and agreed to contact the NAACP and prepare a letter for Town Council. The Ku Klux Klan was strong in this area at the time. Crosses are known to have been burned on the corner of West Broad and South Washington Street behind the home of Merton Church and also on South Maple Avenue on the property of E. B. Henderson. E.B. Henderson, while he worked in D.C. lived on his farm with his family in Falls Church. Finally, on November 5, 1917, the Supreme Court ruled in Buchanan vs. Warley that no state or municipality in the United States could create segregation districts. While the Federal government's decision made the Falls Church ordinance null and void, there was no evidence that it was rescinded. (When the Town of Falls Church became a City in 1948, a new set of laws did not include the segregation ordinance. In the late 1990's, the City Council officially rescinded the law and granted a full apology to the citizens of Falls Church.)

On June 18, 1918, the branch met for the first time and elected Joseph Tinner as the President, and E. B. Henderson as the Secretary and sent the official application to headquarters. The application was approved by the national headquarters on July 17, 1918. (Above text from )

Edwin B. Henderson (1883–1977) is also widely recognized as the "Grandfather of Black Basketball," introduced basketball in Washington, D.C. in 1904 to African Americans on a wide scale, organized basis. His life is the topic of numerous noteworthy books, papers and proceedings, as well as a doctoral dissertation. Henderson himself was the author of several seminal books about African American participation in sports, including his landmark work, The Negro In Sports (Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, Inc., 1939), as well as a regular contributor in the National Negro Press Association with pioneering magazines such as The Messenger and Crisis.
From the 1910s through the 1950s, Henderson played and coached basketball, and taught and influenced perhaps hundreds of thousands of Washington area schoolchildren in basketball, including many later luminaries such as Duke Ellington and Charles Drew.

In 1973, Henderson was elected Honorary President of the North American Society for Sport History. In 1974, along with Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Bill Russell and Althea Gibson, he became an inaugural member of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in New York. Mr. Henderson was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Today, a Fairfax County recreation center bears a plaque dedicated to Edwin Henderson’s legacy. The Falls Church Community Center gymnasium is also named in his honor. In 2005, the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle Schooll was named after Henderson's wife, for the many years she fought to bring equality to educational facilities in Fairfax County Public Schools, in Virginia. (See: )

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