Edwin Bancroft Henderson, also known as the “Father of Black Sports” introduced African Americans to the game of basketball in 1904. He was the first black basketball player at Harvard University and the first physical education teacher in the nation. Henderson was later appointed honorary president of the North American Society for Sport History. E.B. Henderson co-wrote the Spalding Official Handbook.
E.B. Henderson was born in 1883. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Howard University before attending Harvard University in 1904 to study physical recreation.
The game of basketball had only been in existence for about 10 years when Henderson became familiar with the game. He began teaching physical education at his own alma mater, M Street School, to black students. He included basketball in the curriculum.
By 1905, Henderson had formed five teams of players, all African American. Soon, he formed the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), the first athletic conference in D.C., as well as the first integrated for student teams. Among the players was medical pioneer Charles Drew. Henderson continued as head of athletics for D.C. Public Schools from 1926 to 1954.
In 1939, Henderson wrote “The Negro in Sports”. As an activist, he organized protests against D.C.’s Uline Arena and National Theater, both of which changed their policies after Henderson-led picketers lined the buildings. This was the case for local parks in the area as well. His presence with the Washington Post in his open letters against racist policy are archived as part of their historical coverage.
E.B. Henderson died in 1977 at age 93. Later this year, Henderson will be enshrined at the 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His appointment is through years of efforts by his grandson, Edwin Bancroft “Ed” Henderson II.