Interesting People I Meet Along the Way

Interesting People I Meet Along the Way
Saturday, November 20, 2021
One of the fascinating aspects of researching and writing history is the intriguing people I meet along the way. Today I will introduce you to three of the people I met this week, Carl Schurz, Edwin Bancroft and Sendre Berenson. Few have heard of most of these people, however their lives have impacted millions of people.
Carl Schurz (March 2, 1829 – May 14, 1906), was native to Prussia. As a college student he became involved with the German revolution and was forced to flee the country to avoid imprisonment or death. Schurz traveled first to Scotland, then to Paris.

Immigration to United States

In 1852 he emigrated to Philadelphia and from there he migrated to Watertown, Wisconsin.

Working for Abraham Lincoln

He became heavily involved in the abolitionist movement and joined the Republican Party when it formed in 1856. Mr. Schurz launched an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor of Wisconsin in 1857. During the 1860 presidential election, Schurz campaigned heavily for Abraham Lincoln. Since Mr. Schurz spoke fluent German, his speeches in that language to German immigrants helped Lincoln win the election. President Lincoln appointed Schurz as his as minister to Spain. During is time in Spain, he helped dissuade the Spanish government from supporting the Confederacy.

Union Army General

Schurz requested a leave from his post so he could return to Washington to request a position in the Union Army. Lincoln appointed Schurz as a as a brigadier general, taking command of the Third Division of the Army of Virginia under the command of General John C. Fremont. Schurz fought at the Battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

Tour of the South

At war’s end and Lincoln assassination, President Andrew Johnson requested that Schurz conduct a tour of the South and report back on the conditions there. Schurz complied with the request and went on a three month tour, conducting extensive interviews with planters, former Confederate soldiers, freed slaves, Union soldiers and many others. He interviewed people from just about every class of life. In his report he concluded that President Johnson’s lenient policy of reconstruction was not working and recommended that he adopt the plan put forth by the Republicans in Congress. An angered Johnson ignored Schurz’s recommendations and sent the report to Congress for them to review. Congress did use portions of Schurz’s recommendations in their reconstruction policy. Schurz would later run for Vice President as a candidate for the Liberal Republican Party.
Edwin Bancroft Henderson (November 24, 1883 – February 3, 1977)
Considered the “Father of Black Basketball” Bancroft was native to Washington, DC. He graduated from the Miner Normal School in 1904. After graduation he began a life-long teaching and coaching career in the D. C. Public schools system. While attending summer sessions at the Harvard Summer School of Physical Education he learned of the game of basketball. Upon his return to D. C. he introduced the game to the 12th Street (Colored) YMCA. The game became popular and spread to other black YMCA’s and athletic clubs in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. His introduction to the sport led to the Black Five era of basketball.
Marriage and Further Career
He and Mary E. Meriwether married on December 24, 1910 in Washington, DC. The couple would have two sons and apparently adopted another son. Henderson achieved a number of “firsts,” during his career as a coach and teacher. In 1906 he established the first African-American athletic leagues and the first Black to earn certification as a physical education teacher. He and his wife were both active in the civil rights movement, with Henderson serving as the president of the NAACP twice. He wrote thousands of letters to the editor that appeared in the Washington Post, along with several other newspapers. He also wrote letters and articles that appeared in numerous magazines. His topics included civil rights, race relations, Black involvement in sports as well as other things.
Henderson passed away on February 3, 1977. After his death he was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in DC with his wife.
Black Five Era
The era from 1904 until the 1940’s is known as the Black Five Era. Because basketball was a segregated sport, teams with black players could only play teams with other black players. Edwin Bancroft Henderson launched this era when he introduced the sport to youths at the 12th Street (Colored) YMCA in Washington, DC.
Senda Berenson Abbott (March 19, 1868 – February 16, 1954)
Senda’s family migrated from Lithuania to Boston in 1875. Sendra suffered from a bad back when she was a girl and was unable to attend school. Her mother and father home schooled her and she did attend Girl’s Latin School (Boston Latin Academy) for brief periods, however she did not graduate. Her attempt to study the piano at the Boston Conservatory of Music ended when her back problems prevented her from playing the instrument for long periods.


Gymnastics were popular at the time, so she contacted the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics to enroll. Since a high school certificate was necessary, she did not qualify, however officials at the school decided to enroll her any way as a test case to see if the sport would improve her back. She succeeded at the course and began working at Smith College as Athletic director of Smith College in 1891.

Mother of Women’s Basketball

She learned of James Naismith’s new sport that he had invented, basketball. She sent him a letter, inquiring about it and he replied with his set of rules and a diagram of the basketball court. She introduced the sport to the women at her college. The women at the school soon became enthusiastic about the new sport. She pitted the freshman and sophomore classes in a game played on March 22, 1893. No men were permitted to watch the game with the women playing in bloomers. Her introduction of the game led to its popularity at other schools, lending her the nickname, “Mother of Women’s Basketball.

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