Paul Henderson’s photographs are currently on display at the Maryland Historical Society (201 W. Monument St., Baltimore, MD 21201). The exhibit, titled Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960, consists of 26 photographs by Paul Henderson, depicting Civil Rights Era Maryland.
Another version of the exhibit was also on display during the months of May and June at Baltimore City Hall. This Henderson exhibit consisted of the same 26 photographs in the original exhibit, plus an additional 20 photographs. The City Hall exhibit was curated by Joe Tropea and Jennifer A. Ferretti.
The exhibit on view at MdHS is ongoing, with no certain date for deinstallation. For more information, please call MdHS at 410-685-3750.
Text from introductory panel at MdHS (expanded):
Baltimoreans have long been involved in the struggle for civil rights. Frederick Douglass (ca. 1818–1895) escaped slavery in Fells Point, Baltimore when he was just twenty years old and became a leading activist in anti-slavery organizations. Many of his speeches came back to Baltimore in abolitionist publications such as the Genius of the Universal Emancipation.
In 1870, Douglass addressed the crowd gathered in celebration of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, the constitutional guarantee that black men had the right to vote. Douglass advised his listeners to earn and save money, educate their children, and participate in politics. Despite ratification, however, full-voting rights for blacks would not be realized for another century. Douglass’s sentiments would later be reflected in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Baltimore Branch slogan, “Ballots—Not Bullets.” In 1935, Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was appointed president of the Baltimore branch and helped launch Baltimore into the Civil Rights movement alongside allies such as Thurgood Marshall, Governor Theodore McKeldin, Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., and Carl Murphy.
Paul Samuel Henderson (1899–1988) was born in Springfield, Tennessee. He moved from Springfield to Nashville, Tennessee, then from Gary, Indiana to Virginia where he worked at a newspaper in Roanoke until 1929 when he moved to Baltimore. That same year, Henderson married grade school teacher Elizabeth Johnson and the couple took an apartment at 1536 McCulloh Street, within walking distance of Pennsylvania Avenue. Along with education, church, sports, NAACP, and politics, Pennsylvania Avenue is one of the major subjects of his photographs.
Henderson worked as staff photographer and occasional writer for the Baltimore Afro-American, operated a freelance photography business and participated in civic organizations. He retired from the Afro for medical reasons in the mid-1940s but continued taking photographs of African American life until his death in 1966.
The Henderson Photograph Collection contains over six thousand negatives and several hundred prints, of which only a small fraction have been identified. The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) acquired the photographs after the Baltimore City Life Museums (also known as the Peale Museum) closed its doors in 1997. The collection came to MdHS unprocessed and with little useful description. In 2010, Towson University’s Historic Preservation class began reprocessing and over the past two years interns, volunteers, and staff completed the project. The result is an unparalleled visual record of African American life in Baltimore during the civil rights era.
Jennifer A. Ferretti, Curator
This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Ms. Helena Zinkham, in memory of her mother, Claire Zinkham.
Special thanks to those who assisted me with the exhibition:
Research – Eben Dennis; Larry Gibson; Dustin Meeker; Francis O’Neill; Damon Talbot; Joseph Tropea; William F. Zorzi
Installation – Iris Bierlein; Eben Dennis; Heather Haggstrom; Nathan Ochsner; Jack Pinder; Joseph Tropea
Note: Information found on this blog was written by Jennifer A. Ferretti unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to use the information found here so long as this blog along with the author are cited. Paul Henderson’s photographs belong to the Maryland Historical Society. Feel free to use digital images of Henderson’s work found here so long as the Maryland Historical Society and this blog as the retrieval point are cited.