Paul Samuel Henderson was born on October 10, 1899 in Springfield, Tennessee and was the youngest of four children born to Ike A. and Annie L. Henderson. At age 18 he registered for the World War I draft on September 12, 1918 while working as a bricklayer for a steel company in Gary, Indiana. In 1920 his profession changed to driver for a laundry in Gary. At some point during his residence in Gary, he attended the School for Professional Photography. After leaving Indiana, Henderson worked for a newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia.
Henderson moved to Baltimore in 1929 and became what the Afro-American newspaper called their first photographer. In 1930, he married schoolteacher and “prominent society girl” Elizabeth Johnson. Mrs. Henderson was a graduate of Douglass High School and Coppin Normal School for Teachers (now Coppin State University) in Baltimore whose career flourished in the Baltimore City Public School system. In addition to his job at the Baltimore Afro-American, Henderson was a freelance photographer and landlord.
Henderson had become well-known for taking pictures of large groups and distant objects atop a ladder he carried and was also photographed with his camera on a ledge of City Hall in Baltimore. His photography earned him several awards, including recognition in 1944 by the Afro-American as its best photographer. Henderson was also an active member of his community. He was a vestryman at St. James Church, charter member of the Druid Hill Avenue Neighborhood Club, assistant treasurer of a local Frontiers International club, member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and supported the Salvation Army.
Henderson was present during some of the more difficult times in American history. Baltimore’s community of civil rights advocates and activists made themselves known during the 1930s. In 1935, Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was appointed president of the Baltimore Branch NAACP and helped launch Baltimore in to the Civil Rights movement alongside such allies as Thurgood Marshall, NAACP lawyer turned first African American Supreme Court justice; Governor McKeldin; Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Afro-American reported turned NAACP lobbyist in Washington, D.C.; and Dr. Carl Murphy, editor of the Afro-American newspaper. Paul Henderson was not only there to capture these key people at critical moments, he was also present during civil rights efforts such as the seven year protest of Ford’s Theatre on West Fayette Street in Baltimore which began in 1946. For seven years the NAACP and supporters protested the Jim Crow admission policy at the theatre, which brought famous activists to Baltimore, such as Paul Robeson and Bayard Rustin.
Henderson was also present during the protest against segregated education and teacher training programs at Douglass High School on Baker Street in Baltimore, in July 1948. He took several shots of Verda Freeman Welcome in 1950, before she became the first black woman elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1959 and before becoming the first black female senator in the United States when she was elected in 1962. Morgan State College (now University) is a major part of the Henderson Collection. The historically black university has a long history in the city of Baltimore. Henderson photographed sports teams, graduations, students in classrooms, and more on campus. These exhibited photographs and much more tell the story of a major part of Maryland history.
In 1966 Henderson became so gravely ill that on January 22, the Baltimore Afro-American printed a premature obituary for him. However, in the same issue, the newspaper asks readers for prayers for Henderson who had been in Hopkins Hospital for the past week. In April 1966, the newspaper’s Bettye M. Moss updates readers in her column about Henderson’s condition, stating that he is able to be “up and about” at the Bolton Hill Nursing Home at Lafayette Avenue and John Street in Baltimore. By June the Afro-American reports that Henderson is back at home at 1925 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore. In these reports, we learn that Henderson retired from the Afro-American in 1946 but certainly kept shooting until about 1965, when the Henderson Collection at MdHS seems to stop.
Henderson died on Tuesday, May 24, 1988 at Union Memorial Hospital after a reported battle with a long term illness. Services were held at St. James Episcopal Church at Lafayette and Arlington avenues. He had outlived his wife Elizabeth, who passed away in 1982. His obituary stated that he was survived by his brother, Willard Henderson, who lived in Tampa, Florida.
Registration State: Indiana; Registration Couty: Lake; Roll: 1503889; Draft Board: 2. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
United States Census Bureau. (1920). U.S. Federal Census about Paul S Henderson.
Paul S. Henderson Was Photographer [Obituary]. (1988, May 29). The Baltimore Sun.
More about people, things. (1966, Jan. 22). Baltimore Afro-American, pg. 5
Miss Elizabeth Johnson Will Marry Saturday (1930, Sep 27). [Society] Afro-American, A13.
Paul Henderson Manuscript and Ephemera Collection. (1909-1984). [Personal papers and publications owned by Mr. Paul Samuel Henderson and Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson Henderson]. Special Collections Department. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, MD.
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.