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About the Author
Matthew Henson (1866-1955) was an African American explorer. Born in Maryland to sharecropper parents, Henson was raised in a family of free Black Americans and spent the majority of his youth in Washington, D.C. At twelve, he left school to work as a cabin boy but soon returned home to a job as a salesclerk at a local department store. There, he met Robert Peary, an explorer who soon hired the ambitious young man as his valet. In 1891, they embarked on their first Arctic expedition, with Henson serving as a navigator and craftsman. He became an expert in Inuit survival techniques, which served their crew well on a 1908 expedition to Greenland. Together with four Inuit assistants, Peary and Henson became the first men to reach the geographic North Pole. In 1912, Henson published A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, a memoir of his life as a pioneering African American. In 1937, he became the first Black man to be made a life member of the prestigious Explorers Club. He was honored by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and was reinterred alongside his wife at Arlington National Cemetery in 1988.