The fifth of six children, John Alvin Henderson was born in Indianapolis, raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, and Silver Spring, Maryland, and traveled far before finding home with his wife and children in Baltimore. Of the city, John says, “there is a sense of community with the place that called to me.” Living his earliest years in Tuskegee, a hyper-segregated city, John has always been aware of the importance of civil rights and community. In fact, what first drew John to the ACLU of Maryland was our commitment to intentionally further racial justice. 

We are happy to announce that John is now leading the ACLU of Maryland family as our Board President and want to properly introduce him to all of our supporters.  


John was invited to join the ACLU of Maryland’s Committee on Litigation and Legal Priorities in 2009, after advising us about a gender bias case. In 2012, John deepened his commitment by joining our board of directors. He then became chair of the nominations committee for new board members in 2016, leading the ACLU’s effort to develop and implement better practices for expanding the board in ways that focused on diverse representation of Marylanders. John has also led several rewrites to the organization’s bylaws. 

In John's day job, he is a civil rights lawyer, working towards equity in the workplace and hiring practices in the state. Through his experience as a civil rights trial attorney, as well as a lecturer, a teacher, and a writer on EEOC matters, John has lived his strong values of justice and equality. 

On race equity work

“Race equity is way overdue and incredibly important,” said John. 

John knows that the racial disparities that have plagued Baltimore City and Maryland in general are a multigenerational problem. The ACLU of Maryland’s focus on race equity is a great place to start, but we aren’t quite there yet. At the ACLU, John hopes to advocate for change and continue our goal toward race equity through policy, law, and partnerships.

On values

“Creating a movement is not just changing the law or policy,” said John. “We want something sustainable.”

John stresses the importance of our communities and partners that include people personally impacted by the ACLU’s work. Partnerships are what create movements that last, because it’s collective work with our partners that keep the laws and policies in check and make sure they are implemented correctly and fairly. With this model, we can foster sustainable movements. 

On diversifying our membership 

“Expanding the geographic reach of the ACLU of Maryland has been one of my primary goals during my time on the board,” said John. “We also evaluated the board composition through the lens of inclusion on racial, gender, and LGBTQ matters.”

John’s goal as president of the ACLU is to create a “representative organization” of the whole state of Maryland. 

On our future

“I believe in a mission driven budget—if there are a few new programs and activities that generate sufficient excitement and are sufficiently meaningful to fund, drawing from the reserve fund, then we should do it,” says John. 

To John, there is nothing worse than an organization hoarding its funds and resources just for the sake of being conservative. A mission-driven budget uses its resources wisely and demonstrates to our members and donors that we are still fundraising for new programs and activities, because they are truly making a difference. 

Please join us in congratulating John Henderson as he ascends to his new leadership role at the ACLU of Maryland. Together, we will do great things and make a real difference!