Who Was Matthew Henson?


Quick Answer

African-American explorer Matthew Henson is credited, along with Robert Edwin Pearl, with the discovery of the North Pole. After many expeditions to Greenland and two failed attempts to reach the North Pole, Henson, Pearl and four hired Inuit men finally reached the North Pole during Henson's final expedition in 1909.

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Full Answer

Matthew Henson was born in Maryland in 1866 and died in New York in 1955. He took a job as a ship's cabin boy at the age of 12 and spent six years in the position learning literacy and navigation. When he met Pearl, he was working as a store clerk. The store's owner recommended him to Pearl, who hired Henson as a valet for his expeditions. Their first expedition together was to Greenland in 1891. In 1912, Henson wrote a memoir about their final expedition titled "A Negro Explorer at the North Pole." Henson did not receive recognition for his role in their expeditions until late in his life, when he was accepted as an honorary member of the Explorer's Club in New York and was awarded a medal by the U.S. Navy.

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