Dr. John Henry and family become first African Americans to reside in Uplands part of Seattle's Seward Park neighborhood in December 1960.

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 4/07/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3172

In December 1960, Dr. John Henry (1920-2003), his wife Mary Henry, and their children become the first African Americans to reside in the Uplands part of the Seward Park neighborhood. When the neighbors discovered that the home designed by African American architect Benjamin McAdoo (1920-1981) was being built for a black family, attempts were made to discourage the move. Neighborhood meetings were held to plan action against the family moving in, petitions were circulated, and the family was offered thousands of dollars if they would not move into the home at 6261 Lake Shore Drive S.

It was only after letters from the Civic Unity Committee were distributed in the Uplands area that the neighborhood settled down. (The Civic Unity Committee was a multiracial citizen task force formed in 1944 to advise the Seattle mayor on improving racial harmony and working against discrimination.) The Henry family occupied the home for 20 years and the four children attended schools in the neighborhood with no problem.

Dr. John Henry was a pioneer African American general surgeon, one of the first two in Seattle. His wife, Mary Henry, was a Seattle Public School librarian. The youngest son, Neil Henry, Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, has authored the book Pearl's Secret, a Black Man's Search for his White Family, which also chronicles some of his experiences of life in Seward Park.


Neil Henry, Pearl's Secret: A Black Man's Search for his White Family (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).
Note: This essay was updated on September 8, 2003.

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