George Henderson is Sylvan N. Goldman Professor Emeritus, David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus, and Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Human Relations, Education, and Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, where he founded the Human Relations Department and later served as dean of the College of Liberal Studies. He was the first African American dean of a degree granting college on the Norman campus. He was also a Kerr-McGee Presidential Professor.
In 1967, Dr. Henderson became the third full-time African American faculty member at the university’s Norman campus. During his nearly forty year tenure, he achieved many other notable accomplishments, including being the recipient of more than fifty university and community awards and honors. His awards and honors include the OU Regents Superior Teaching Award (1977); University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award (1992); American Association for Higher Education's Black Caucus Award for Outstanding Educational Service (1993); C.V. Ramana Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Mental Health of Oklahoma's Children (1996); Outstanding Professor Award, University of Oklahoma Interfraternity Council and Pan-Hellenic Association (1997); Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for the Outstanding College and University Professor (2000); State of Oklahoma Black Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award (2003); Also in 2003, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Oklahoma City/Norman Chapter of the OU Black Alumni Society awarded him a Trailblazer Award for Distinguished Service. In 2011, the University of Oklahoma awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree. The Henderson Scholars Program and the Henderson-Tolson Cultural Center on the Norman campus bear his name.
For more than four decades, George Henderson, OU human relations emeritus and the first black homeowner in Norman, has worked on the front line of race relations as an adviser, professor, administrator and resident.
Now, he is sharing his story and a piece of campus history in a new memoir titled “Race and the University.”
The 272-page memoir is Henderson’s insight into the black-and-white divide of the civil rights movement in the1960s, as it happened on the OU-Norman campus. Henderson, a Detroit native and the third black professor to teach at OU, recounts how he discovered the value of uniting and battling racial discrimination in a nonviolent way.
“I think all people should know their history and this is an important part of the university’s past,” said Henderson, founder of the Human Relations department at OU. “I think something very important happened here and very few people really know the intricacies of what it was like, what sacrifices were made and what some of the outcomes were.”
The book gives OU students an opportunity to see how different the campus environment was in the 1960s and 1970s compared to made and what some of the outcomes were.”
The book gives OU students an opportunity to see how different the campus environment was in the 1960s and 1970s compared to now, Henderson said.
“We were not what we wanted to be in those days,” he said. “We were struggling to find our way, and we reached out and found each other. That is what the book is about.”
The 77-year-old credits much of his academic and personal success to his interactions with students.
Throughout his career, Henderson said students always taught him humility, courage and love through all of his struggles as a trailblazer of racial equality.
“(This) generation reading the book will say, ‘My goodness, you’re making this up, people didn’t live like this,’” he said. “Well, we did live like that; we lived in parallel universities; we occupied the same geographical space, but we were not as a whole racially integrated.”
The book incorporates three recollections from three of Henderson’s former students. They discuss their living, social and classroom conditions.
The foreword of the book is written by former OU professor David Levy. He is the author of the novel, “Oklahoma: A History.”