Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Cornelius Henderson (1888? - 1976)

Cornelius Langston Henderson was a prominent African-American engineer who rose past racial barriers to work on two of the most important infrastructure projects in the Detroit region during the 20th century, the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

He graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1911 with a degree in civil engineering, only the second African American to receive such a degree. Nevertheless, and despite his academic resume, he was discriminated against in the Detroit area when it came to find a job. Luckily, the folks on the Canadian side of the Detroit River were less racist, and Henderson took a job with the Canadian Bridge Co. in Walkerville, Ontario. This led to him working on the bridge and tunnel.