1866 – 1955
Matthew Alexander Henson was the first African-American Arctic explorer. He accompanied Robert Peary on eight Arctic voyages, where his technical skills and ability to communicate with the Eskimo were indispensable. While Peary received worldwide fame and recognition for their famous 1909 discovery expedition to the North Pole, Mr. Henson was largely ignored for years by the white-dominated society.
His account of the famous expedition, “ A Negro Explorer at the North Pole”, was published in 1912. He later became a member of the distinguished Explorers Club and received honorary degrees from Howard University and Morgan College. In 1988 Mr. Henson’s remains were moved to Arlington Cemetary where so many American heroes and soldiers are buried. In 1996, the Navy ship, the USNS Henson, was named for him. And the National Geographic Society, in 2000 awarded him its highest honor: the Hubbard Medal, for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research.
There can be no conquest to the man who dwells in the narrow and small environment of a groveling life, and there can be no vision to the man the horizon of whose vision is limited by the bounds of self. But the great things of the world, the great accomplishments of the world, have been achieved by men who had high ideals and who have received great visions. The path is not easy, the climbing is rugged and hard, but the glory at the end is worthwhile.