TCU writing instructor Cynthia Shearer sets the record straight on Fletcher Henderson.

After leaving Georgia and attaining relative fame in New York City, Henderson returned to tour the South, even performing in Oklahoma after the “Black Wall Street” massacre in Tulsa. Shearer was the first to unearth that the NAACP funded his tour, positioning the innovator as a musical ambassador for racial harmony. Henderson fit the role, she said. “He was brought up to think of himself as someone who had to push the color bar.”

The bandleader’s noble intentions and astronomical talent did not translate into tangible wealth.

The accepted historical narrative blames Henderson himself for fading into time, pointing to a bad attitude or poor business sense. The accusations were out of tune with what Shearer learned of the man, she said. “It started to feel like I needed to try to correct the record about his personality.”

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