E.B. Henderson II: The Grandfather of Black Basketball
The Mary Riley Styles Public Library is honored to host Falls Church’s own Edwin B. Henderson on the publication of his book, The Grandfather of Black Basketball: The Life and Times of Dr. E B Henderson. Henderson’s book about his grandfather is the first contemporary biography of the man credited with introducing basketball to African Americans on a wide-scale, organized basis.
Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson was the son of working-class parents born in slavery. A driven, intelligent, and charismatic young man, Henderson attended Harvard University’s Dudley Sargent School of Physical Training. There he met the leaders in the new field of physical education and recognized athletics—and basketball, especially—as a public health initiative and a way that young Blacks could gain college scholarships and debunk the idea of racial inferiority.
In The Grandfather of Black Basketball: The Life and Times of Dr. E. B. Henderson, Edwin Bancroft Henderson II—Dr. Henderson’s grandson—provides unprecedented detail and fascinating insight into this influential figure in Black history. Henderson organized the first athletic league for Blacks, introduced basketball to Black people on a wide-scale, organized basis, and founded associations to train and organize Black officials and referees. He also wrote and co-edited the first Spalding publication that highlighted the exploits of African American participation in sports and authored The Negro in Sports. Outside of athletics, Henderson was instrumental in founding the first rural branch of the NAACP, advocated for school desegregation, and held executive board positions with multiple NAACP branches.
Overlooked for decades, Henderson was finally enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 as a contributor. The Grandfather of Black Basketball gives long-overdue recognition to a sports pioneer, civil rights activist, author, educator, and pragmatic humanitarian who fought his entire life to improve opportunities for youth through athletics.
Edwin Bancroft Henderson II is the founding president and director of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, whose mission it is to research, preserve and celebrate the African American and civil rights history of Falls Church, Fairfax County, and Northern Virginia. He received the NAACP’s African American History Preservation Award and was named a National Trust for Historic Preservation Diversity Scholar. He is a Life Member of the NAACP and a member of the Historical Society of Washington. He has served on the Falls Church Historical Commission since 1995. Henderson was an educator for 25 years and is the namesake of Dr. E. B. Henderson.