September 24, 2023


August 8, 1866, famed American explorer Matthew Alexander Henson was born. Henson was a technical genius, skilled as a carpenter, blacksmith, dog-handler and hunter. He and his partner, Robert Peary, went on eight expeditions, reaching what they believed was the North Pole on the final attempt, with Henson having the distinction of being the first person to set foot in the North Pole.

Henson achieved a degree of fame as a result of participating in the expedition, and in 1912 he published a memoir titled A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. As he approached old age, his exploits received renewed attention. In 1937 he was the first African American to be made a life member of The Explorers Club; in 1948 he was elevated to the club’s highest level of membership. In 1944 Henson was awarded the Peary Polar Expedition Medal, and he was received at the White House by Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. In 1988 he and his wife were re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Almost a century after his expeditions, Henson was posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society.

Check out the video below from National Geographic:

Who Was the First Person to Reach the North Pole? | National Geographic

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