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Matthew A. Henson

Co-Discoverer of the North Pole

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  • Born August 8, 1866 to free, Black, sharecropping parents. Died March 9, 1955.​

  • Worked first as a cabin boy on a trade ship, then as a furrier before meeting Robert E. Peary.

  • Was an integral part of Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, crafting sleds, hunting and trapping for furs to wear, and being the interpreter between Peary and the Inuit community.

  • Fathered a child with an Inuit wife, as discovered in the 1980s by Harvard researcher, Dr. S. Allen Counter.

  • In a controversy involving a dispute about whether Peary or Frederick Cook reached the North Pole first, his account was dismissed due to being Black.

  • Wrote a book from his journal documenting his experience and to support Peary’s account, Negro Explorer at the North Pole (1912).

  • After years of being overlooked, Henson received recognition late in life and was buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.

  • Quote: “The lure of the Arctic is tugging at my heart, to me the trail is calling!”

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New Content for 2022

We are prioritizing Black Histories, World and Indigenous Histories, and Histories of People of Color for this coming year. We will have new content coming on explorer Matthew A. Henson, poet Phillis Wheatley, a piece on the interconnectivity of early global technologies, and other additions. If you have an idea for a story, please drop us a note. We want to crowdsource our 2022 content!

Thanks for visiting! More to come soon.

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