Gus Henderson: Crusading Voice for Voters and Newspaper Pioneer
By Whitney Broadaway from the Spring 2020 edition of Reflections magazine
In 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, Gustavus Christopher “Gus” Henderson was born near Lake City, Florida. His mother was black, but not much is known about his father, who may have been white. He was raised solely by his mother, who instilled in him a deep-rooted set of morals; she died when he was 10 years old, leaving him alone in the world.
He worked for an itinerant white tinsmith to make ends meet while he was young, but he never allowed himself to neglect his education. By night he taught himself to read from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. As a young man, he spent several years in farming, but he was not content and eventually found a position with a New York company as a traveling salesman.
Henderson proclaimed himself to be Florida’s first black commercial tourist. He traveled widely and “met with success wherever he went,” he later recalled. The portrait of him in the History Center’s collection was taken at the Moffat Brothers’ Key West photography studio in 1885 during one of his business trips. After only five months, the firm asked for Henderson’s resignation. When pressed for a reason, they admitted that while he was one of their best salesmen, they had learned he was black and several disgruntled white salesmen were putting pressure on the firm to have him removed…
To read the rest of this and more articles from by the Orange County Regional History Center: https://www.thehistorycenter.org/gus-henderson/