Paul Henderson Photographs

Paul Henderson was a photojournalist who worked for the Afro-American newspaper and photographed civil rights activities, sports, street scenes, politicians, and countless unidentified people. Over 7,000 of his photographs are held at the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) in Baltimore, Maryland. The exhibit Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960 is on display at MdHS indefinitely and the reference photos of the original negatives are available to the public in the Special Collections Department in the MdHS library. The Henderson Collection finding aid can also be found on the MdHS website.

Through Henderson’s photos, this blog asks the question, “What was life like in Maryland for the African American community during the Civil Rights Era?” Browse through the articles about people, places, and events below or the Galleries pages to get an idea.

Video info: Interview with Vernon Dobson. McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project Collection, Maryland Historical Society, OH 8131.

Transcript:
I think it’s a false assumption that negro progress has been born on the shoulders of a few people. And this is why I shun myself and [?] the leadership role, visible leadership role when it comes to being printed up in the press as a leader. Because I think it’s a false assumption on the part of any person to believe that he or she is the leader. We are participants of a process and the process is continuing. And it never ends. And isn’t going to end until everybody’s free.

NAACP Membership Registration Campaign meeting

NAACP meeting. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A2-147.

NAACP meeting. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A2-147.

Founded in 1912, the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP is the second oldest in the country. In response to legal segregation in education, housing, and employment, Dr. Carl Murphy, editor of the Afro-American newspaper, called a meeting with fourteen community leaders in 1935 in an effort to revitalize the branch. Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was one of the fourteen and from then until 1970, she would be president of the Baltimore Branch. The association’s membership in 1965 totaled 440,538 in 1,642 branches throughout the U.S.

Image information:

NAACP Membership Registration Campaign meeting
Baltimore, Maryland
October 1948
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.A2-147
Maryland Historical Society

Sewing, cleaning, and pressing class at Carver Vocational School

Sewing, cleaning, and pressing class at Carver Vocational School. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.01.05-025.

Sewing, cleaning, and pressing class at Carver Vocational School. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.01.05-025.

Established circa 1925, George Washington Carver Vocational [Technical] High School was the first vocational center established in Baltimore that was open to black students.

Image information:

Sewing, cleaning, and pressing class at Carver Vocational School
1200-1216 West Lafayette Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland
October 1949
Paul Henderson, 1899-1988
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.01.05-025
Maryland Historical Society

1200 West Lafayette Avenue via Google Maps:

Children entering the Regent Theatre

Children entering the Regent Theatre. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-006.

Children entering the Regent Theatre. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-006.

Weekend trips to the theater to watch cartoons was a popular activity for children in area of the Regent Theatre. The Regent Theatre (1627 Pennsylvania Avenue) and the Royal Theatre (1329 Pennsylvania Avenue) both screened films and held live shows in addition to showing cartoons.

Image information:

Children entering the Regent Theatre
1627 Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland
ca. 1942
Paul Henderson, 1899-1988
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.B1-006
Maryland Historical Society

1627 Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland via Google Maps:

18th Annual Convocation, United Holy Church of America

18th Annual Convocation, United Holy Church of America, ca. 1930. Paul Henderson, HEN.09.09-006.

18th Annual Convocation, United Holy Church of America, ca. 1930. Paul Henderson, HEN.09.09-006.

The black church is considered to be the focal point of the community’s social, political, and cultural life. Typically associated with collective action by blacks, the church created a community of support, spiritual guidance, and other groups. Parishioners of black churches throughout history took the lead in organizing their congregations in civil rights and political actions as well as spiritual revival.

Image information:

18th Annual Convocation, United Holy Church of America
Baltimore, Maryland
Not dated (ca. 1930)
Paul Henderson, 1899-1988
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.09.09-006.

Danny’s Shoe Store

Danny's Shoe Store, 1953. Paul Henderson, HEN.00.B2-264.

Danny’s Shoe Store, 1953. Paul Henderson, HEN.00.B2-264.

Presumably, the couple depicted are Daniel Siegel and his wife Ruth, who operated Danny’s Shoe Store from circa 1942 through circa 1948. Danny’s, next to Chen-Yu Beauty Salon, was located within walking distance from Pennsylvania Avenue and Henderson’s home on McCulloh Street.

Image information:

Danny’s Shoe Store
1108-1110 Laurens Street, Baltimore
February 1953
Paul Henderson, 1899-1988
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.B2-264

Bayard Rustin

Mrs. Bowen Jackson and Bayard Rustin protesting Ford's Theatre. Paul Henderson, MdHS, HEN.00.A2-155.

Mrs. Bowen Jackson and Bayard Rustin protesting Ford’s Theatre. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A2-155.

Henderson photographed Bayard Rustin when he was in Baltimore protesting the Jim Crow admission policy at Ford’s Theatre. The protest lasted six years and attracted Civil Rights advocates such as Rustin and Paul Robeson, as seen in other Henderson photographs.

Bayard is mostly recognized for organizing the 1963 March on Washington and being a close advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only was Rustin fighting for his rights as an African American in America, but he was also fighting for his right to live an openly gay lifestyle. To find out more about Rustin, visit the site of a documentary on Rustin at Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at rustin.org. There is a great trailer for the documentary on the home page.

A cropped version of Henderson’s photograph ran in the Afro-American newspaper on October 29, 1949 with the following caption:
Bayard Rustin, who spent 22 days on the North Carolina chain gang for refusal to obey the jim crow travel laws, is shown as he joined the NAACP picket line at Ford’s Theatre, last week, in protest of its policy of segregation. This is the fourth season of the NAACP’s picketing in Baltimore. Shown left to right, are Mrs. Bowen Jackson and Mr. Rustin. 

The FBI investigated Rustin for his alleged ties to the Communist Party. The documents can be viewed through the FBI Records Vault. FBI documents on other Civil Rights activists can also be viewed.