THE STORY OF HENDERSON TRAVEL SERVICE -- FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TRAVEL AGENCY IN THE UNITED STATES FIRST TRAVEL AGENCY TO PIONEER IN AFRICAN TOURISM

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The year was 1955. Segregation was the law of the land and despite the heroism of Black World War II soldiers worldwide and the courage of Rosa Parks, Black citizens in the U. S. faced systemic racial segregation and daily obstacles in every aspect of their lives. In Atlanta in the same year, another African American woman in partnership with her husband began a business that became the first Black owned, fully appointed full-service travel agency in the U.S.

The goal of Henderson Travel Service (HTS) was to expose African American travelers to the freedoms abroad that they could not enjoy at home and to introduce them to the people, cultures and places of the world. “Education through Exposure” became their motto and cultural tours to Africa became their specialty. In 1957, at a time when many Black citizens couldn’t vote or eat in a restaurant, Henderson Travel Service would be the first travel agency to “pioneer” in African tourism, taking the first group of Americans to Accra, Ghana to witness and participate in the independence celebration of The United Republic of Ghana, the first African country to gain its independence.

Over the next 50 years, they would build a successful, family owned business with Freddye at the helm and husband, Jake, with his business skills behind the scenes. They would not only pioneer in tourism to Africa — West, East, South and North Africa, but would lead tours throughout the world. They would escort and arrange international travel to Europe and Oslo for Dr. Martin Luther King and his delegation to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and would be among those select few invited on the inaugural flight to China, hosted by Premier Chou En Lai when China first opened its doors to world tourism in 1972.

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                                              QUICK FACTS

The First fully appointed African American owned travel agency in the United States, started by Freddye & Jake Henderson in 1955 in Atlanta, GA.

  • Freddye Henderson’s support of and involvement in the establishment of the National Association of Black Fashion Designers (NAFAD) in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
  • Involvement of the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height, Mary McLeod Bethune, and the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt in pressuring Waldorf Astoria Hotel management to allow NAFAD to host a meeting at the hotel in early 1950’s.
  • Freddye Henderson’s first international tour--leading a group of young, Black fashion designers to Paris, Rome, Geneva and London for the Designers’ Spring Fashion Shows.
  • Henderson Travel Service’s encouraging African Americans to travel the world by opening the doors of the nation’s first Black Travel Agency in 1955, the same year that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery public bus and when Black people were not allowed to freely travel across town in the deep south, when traveling overseas seemed out of the question.
  • Introducing the concept of post-convention tours to professional groups such as the National Medical Association, National Association of Black Social Workers, the Black Dental Association and sororities and fraternities, encouraging professional Blacks to travel the world.
  • Pioneering in tourism to Africa in the international tourism industry and taking the first group of American tourists to Ghana to celebrate its independence in 1957 on an international charter airline before commercial airlines were flying to Africa 
  • Arranging the trip and escorting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his family and delegation to Oslo, Norway and Paris when Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize.
  •                                Foir more information,  visit HendersonTravel.com
  •                                                                             Contact Henderson Travel Service                                                             7961 Eastern Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910 • Telephone: 301-650-5700 • Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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