The inventory list for Carton 1 has been released from an unsearchable PDF and is available directly on the MdHS website. Carton 1 contains mostly unidentified portraits (which can be said for the majority of the collection) as well as some photographs of gospel singer and Civil Rights activist Mahalia Jackson, Morgan State College graduations (including images of Governor William Preston Lane Jr. in attendance and Martin Jenkins, Morgan president), sports, and more.

The project includes providing more substantial descriptions of each image as well as making the list available directly on the website. The third stage is to add more digital images to the Collections Online database and linking those images directly to the inventory lists.

One carton down, eight more to go!

In an effort to add more of Henderson’s photographs to the blog easily, in a non-blog format (reverse chronological), I’ve decided to update the look of the Henderson blog. The posts with short articles will remain on the front page. A Galleries page has been added and will include photographs of education, events, groups, and people. Some sub-topics will be included, such as Morgan State College within the Education page. I hope to get the site to a good place within the next two weeks and continue to add to it as time goes on. With over 7,000 images to choose from, there are plenty of photos to continue adding. I apologize in advance for empty or seemingly incomplete pages.

Many people access the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection through search engines and by searching the Maryland Historical Society website directly. This means the finding aid — the item-level inventory of each photograph — must be written with the most accurate and descriptive information available.

Unfortunately, the Henderson photographs arrived at MdHS with very little information. Most photographs are described as “Man in picture” and “Nice neighborhood,” which is hardly useful to anyone. A complete redo of the descriptions is currently underway.

Additionally, the size of the collection does not lend itself to be added easily to the MdHS website. Currently, they are only available as PDFs, which are not searchable by search engines. In addition to a redo of the descriptions, I am currently making the inventory available directly on the website as well as downloadable as PDFs.

Right now only Box A and Box B (which totals about 552 photographs) are available directly on the website as well as PDF. The Paul Henderson Photograph Collection Overview contains a list of what is included in the collection as well as the inventories.

A version of the exhibit Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960, was on view in the rotunda of Baltimore City Hall this summer. Below are a few photographs of the installation. The exhibit is no longer on view at City Hall, but the original exhibition will be on display at the Maryland Historical Society indefinitely. Additionally, it is a goal to have a traveling version of the exhibit makes its way around the state of Maryland.

All photographs are by James Singewald. The exhibition was curated by Joe Tropea and Jennifer A. Ferretti.

Paul Henderson: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960 is now on view in the rotunda of Baltimore City Hall (100 North Holliday Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202). The exhibit of 46 photographs is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9a-5p (with photo ID). In addition to this venue, the exhibit of 26 photographs is still on display at the Maryland Historical Society (201 West Monument Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201).

Watch this video by WBAL TV 11 News of Kim Dacey speaking with co-curator Joe Tropea (City’s civil rights history displayed at City Hall, June 4, 2013).

Henderson Exhibit at Baltimore City Hall. Photo by Joe Tropea.

Henderson Exhibit at Baltimore City Hall. Photo by Joe Tropea.

After much success and attention from the press for the Henderson exhibit at MdHS, I’m happy to announce that the Paul Henderson exhibition will soon be traveling throughout Maryland. The first stop will be Baltimore City Hall (100 North Holliday Street, Baltimore, MD 21202).

The original 26 photographs plus an additional 20 will be on display in the rotunda of City Hall. The exhibit will open June 5 and viewing times are Monday through Friday, 9a to 5p. (Photo ID is required for entry.) The larger exhibit also features a new title, Paul Henderson: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960, as the traveling exhibit explores other areas in Maryland and not exclusively Baltimore. The exhibit was curated by the author of this blog, Jennifer A. Ferretti, as well as Joe Tropea, MdHS’s Curator of Films & Photographs.

The traveling exhibit represents our continuing attempt to identify people and locations in Henderson’s photographs. A majority of the exhibit labels contain a QR code for the images of unknown people and places. After smartphone users scan the barcode, they are taken to an online identification form where they can type information they may know about the photographs. Similar to the original exhibition, some labels with QR codes take the visitor to more photographs on this blog.

If you are interested in speaking with someone about bringing the Henderson Collection to a venue near you, please feel free to email me at

Related story: Henderson’s Civil Rights-era photographs going up at City Hall. (2013, May 23). Baltimore Brew.

MdHS and the Pierians Inc. Baltimore Chapter hosted Revisiting Our Past: Identifying Paul Henderson’s Photographs of the African American Community in Maryland, ca. 1935-1965 on Sunday, April 7. Roughly 120 people came to MdHS to help identify people and places in Henderson’s photographs.

Considering 90% of the 6,000+ black and white negatives are unidentified, while processing the collection, I created reference binders that contain positive images of each of Henderson’s photographs. The binders were copied and distributed to each table for the attendees to look through. To see the Henderson Collection receive this amount of attention when it had been forgotten for decades was an incredible experience. I look forward to attending more Revisiting Our Past events, as this is the first of more to come.

A special thank you must be given to the Pierians. One member contacted me before I left MdHS in August and let me know that her group was interested in helping MdHS identify people in the photographs. They were confident that they would know many of the people featured. This was obviously the case on April 7 when at any given time you could hear people say, “This is my sister!” or “This is me!”.

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The Maryland Historical Society and the Pierians Incorporated Baltimore Chapter are hosting an event on Sunday, April 7, 2p-4p, that will focus on identifying the faces and places found in Paul Henderson’s work. The event calls for individuals who lived or worked in the Baltimore area from ca. 1935-1965. The event will take place at MdHS at 201 W. Monument Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Take a look at this article in the Baltimore Brew: Images of Civil-Rights-era Baltimore tantalizingly uncaptioned. Fern Shen, March 27, 2013.

Starting the Dialogue: Planning a Program and Exhibition Around Maryland’s Civil Rights History
Jennifer A. Ferretti
Printed in MdHS News Fall 2012

Spread in MdHS News.

Spread in MdHS News.

Maryland’s contribution to the struggle for civil rights for African Americans nationwide is astounding. In the 1930s, a community of activists began to form, putting Marylanders at the forefront of the struggle.

The exhibition “Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960” shares the daily lives of African Americans during this time, as well as those with major accomplishments in the Civil Rights movement.

Paul Samuel Henderson (1899-1988) was born in Springfield, Tennessee, and graduated from the School for Professional Photography in Gary, Indiana. After moving to Baltimore in 1930, Henderson became a photographer for the Afro-American newspaper.

Although he photographed well-recognized people such as Thurgood Marshall, Governor Theodore McKeldin, Lillie May Carroll Jackson, Maryland State Senator Verda Freeman Welcome, and the players from the Negro League baseball team the Elite Giants, Henderson was not the paper’s most famous photographer.

The MdHS received Henderson’s unprocessed photograph collection from the Peale/Baltimore City Life Museum in the late 1990s. For decades, it remained unavailable to researchers due to its lack of preservation and organization.

After two years of processing the collection, which included a semester’s help from a Towson University class and a few highly dedicated interns, the collection is now available. During the organization process, certain people and events depicted in Henderson’s photographs began to stand out.

Education, religious activities, sports, politics, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meetings and activities were all strong themes in Henderson’s work. However, most of this collection consists of unidentified group portraits.

Henderson’s images of the civil rights struggle in Baltimore are extremely powerful. The potential for an exhibition centered on a history of Baltimore that many people are unfamiliar with was quickly apparent.

While Imaging Services staff and the Towson students were processing Henderson, the Special Collections staff was working on digitizing the Governor Theodore McKeldin-Lillie May Carroll Jackson Oral History Collection. The interviewees in this audio collection discussed their role in the struggle for civil rights in Baltimore.

The audio collection was a perfect companion to the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection; in some cases, Henderson had even photographed the interviewees.

With an exhibition already in mind, work on the two collections began an internal dialogue at the MdHS about how to best engage the community, bring awareness about the collections, and tell this largely unknown history. A panel discussion with those who could articulate the significance of the collection and of the civil rights struggle in Maryland was planned.

“Seen & Heard: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs and Oral Histories” was a free discussion with Dr. Helena Hicks, one of only three surviving members of the widely publicized (and one of the earliest) sit-ins at Read’s Drug Store in Baltimore in 1955; Larry Gibson, professor of law at the University of Maryland; Dr. Barry Lanman, professor and director of the Martha Ross Center for Oral History and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and initial interviewer in the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project; Dr. Michelle Scott, associate professor at UMBC; and William F. Zorzi, former reporter and editor for nearly 20 years at The Baltimore Sun and co-writer for the HBO series The Wire.

The Henderson exhibition opened on the night of the panel discussion, and attendance surpassed expectations. The event, which was covered by C-SPAN, drew some 200 people. Panelist Dr. Hicks talked about the Read’s Drug Store sit-in of 1955 and what the site of the store, now threatened with demolition, means to her today.

Mentioning the influential process and work of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP, landmark court cases such as Murray v. Pearson in 1935, sit-ins in the 1950s, and the Cambridge demonstrations in the early 1960s, Dr. Scott discussed why Maryland was such a hotbed of activity and how it fit in the context of the national Civil Rights movement. Dr. Lanman provided some context for the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project and described its significance and reception when it was completed. Bill Zorzi reviewed the city politics of Baltimore during the Civil Rights era and its possible relation to the movement itself. Gibson talked about the significance of the Henderson collection and why it is important to help save it, as well as his experiences growing up in Baltimore.

There was a special guest in the audience that night too. Although fully qualified, Esther McCready was denied admission to the University of Maryland School of Nursing solely based on the color of her skin. Photograph by Paul Henderson along with her attorneys, Thurgood Marshall and Donald Gaines Murray, McCready wasn’t only in the audience — her portrait was hanging in the exhibition.

McCready sued the university for admission based on the argument that she was not provided “equal protection under the law” and was forced to pursue her education out of state (where African Americans were accepted) while white nurses were being trained in state. The photograph, presumably, was taken around the time the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in McCready’s favor, April 14, 1950, granting her admission to the university and breaking the color barrier.

There are countless other stories to be told about the struggle for civil rights in Maryland. The Paul Henderson Photograph Collection is an amazing resource for anyone interested in them, yet it also raises many questions: Who are the musicians, doctors, priests, men, women, and children depicted in Henderson’s work?

Since the opening of the exhibit, the MdHS has received wonderful information. We invite others who may know the answers to these historical mysteries to visit and help record history.

For more Seen & Heard photos, visit the set on the MdHS Flickr page.


I’m happy to report that the Paul Henderson Manuscript and Ephemera Collection (MS 3089) is now available to the public. Take a look at the inventory list on the MdHS website.

This collection consists of four boxes (one oversized) and contains materials related to the Afro-American newspaper, Baltimore City Public Schools (employer of Mrs. Elizabeth J. Henderson), National Negro Business League, DuBois Circle booklets, programs, publications, letters, newspaper clippings, and more.

This was my first experience processing a manuscript/ephemera collection. I typically process photographic collections so this was quite a change for me. I’m incredibly happy that I had the opportunity to work with the collection, considering my work with Henderson’s photograph collection.

The collection, like the photograph collection, was bequeathed to the Peale/Baltimore City Life Museum ca. 1991 and was transferred to MdHS when BCLM closed in 1998.

I look forward to scanning a few of my favorite items and uploading them to this blog.

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