(257519)

With the evolving of the Internet and other technologies, the travel agency has become a thing of the past. But in Silver Springs, Maryland, a Black-owned agency still boasts a steady business. Since 1955, Henderson Travel Service, considered the oldest African American travel agency, has sent hundreds of thousands of tourists to Africa. According to NBC News, Gaynelle Henderson was planning to downsize the global, Black-owned travel business her parents founded 61 years ago, but there was only one problem: The phone kept ringing. “I was trying to slow down this year,” Henderson told NBC News. “My plan was to move the company to a home-based business but more calls continued to come in from clients who wanted to travel to Ghana, Senegal and South Africa. We’re still getting calls. I can’t say no.” Henderson, 70 years old, is busy as usual in her Silver Spring office emailing clients, arranging adventure and cultural packages, and chatting with Black lawyers about traveling to Ghana and Senegal in June. It’s a familiar mission. HTS is the first Black-owned travel company to take large groups of black tourists to Africa. Since 1955, the travel agency has sent hundreds of thousands of tourists to Africa. Six decades later, Henderson, the president of her company since 1984, is continuing a storied legacy. In many countries throughout Africa, Henderson’s name remains synonymous with excellence. And it all began with Freddye Henderson’s dream. Gaynelle Henderson’s late parents, Jacob and Freddye Henderson, were visionaries who founded the travel agency in Atlanta in 1955 during a racially turbulent time in America. Rosa Parks was arrested that same year for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading a civil rights movement for non-violent social change. Henderson said her mother, Freddye, believed that African-Americans would embrace Africa – and that Africa would embrace African-Americans, so her parents coined their agency motto: “Education through exposure.” Freddye and Jacob led their first group of clients to Africa on a chartered flight in 1957 when Ghana celebrated its formal independence from Britain and Kwame Nkrumah was elected as Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President. Over the years, the agency has arranged trips for several predominant clients, including Dr. King to Norway when he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.