This Day in Black History: Aug. 8, 1866

Polar explorer Matthew Henson was born.

Posted: 08/08/2012 07:00 AM EDT

(Photo: Wikicommons)

Pioneering explorer Matthew Henson was born on Aug. 8, 1866.


Henson was the first American to reach the North Pole. He is best known for his record-breaking expedition to the North Pole with explorer Robert E. Peary on April 6, 1909, when the two men reached the farthest point north ever reached by previous explorers.


Born in a cabin near Nanjemoy, Maryland, Henson became an orphan at age 11 after the deaths of his parents. At age 13, Henson ran away from home and worked as a cabin boy on a ship docked in Baltimore, Maryland. The experience allowed Henson to sail around the world and he earned navigation skills from the ship’s crew during the several years he spent at sea.


In 1887, Henson met Commander Robert E. Peary who invited him to go on several arctic expeditions before the men took their fateful, most ambitious trip in 1909.


Henson died in 1955 at age 88 in the Bronx, New York.



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