Matt Henson Biography:
For over two decades, they explored the Arctic, as well as on April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson as well as the remainder of the team made history, becoming the very first individuals to attain the North Pole—or at least they promised to have. Henson died in nyc on March 9, 1955. The son of two freeborn black sharecroppers, Henson lost his mom for a very young age. When Henson was 4 years old, his dad moved the family to Washington, D.C., in hunt for work opportunities. His dad died there, leaving Henson and his sibs in the care of relatives. Henson ran away from home at age 11, and was taken in with a lady who resided near his house. At age 12, Henson left to act as a cabin boy on a boat. During the following six years and under the mentorship of Captain Childs, Henson learned literacy and navigation abilities.
After Captain Childs expired, Henson returned to Washington, D.C. and worked as a shop clerk for a furrier. On the recommendation of the shop owner, Peary hired Henson as his valet because of his journey expeditions. While there, Henson adopted the local Eskimo culture, learning the language as well as the natives’ Arctic survival skills. In the trip’s ending, in 1893, Henson stayed the only member of Peary’s entourage—the remaining team had abandoned the assignment.
Their next trip to Greenland came in 1895, this time having a target of charting the whole ice cap. The journey nearly ended in disaster, with Peary’s team on the verge of starvation; members of the team was able to survive by eating all but one of their sled dogs. Within another couple of years, the explorers returned to Greenland to collect three meteorites discovered during prior quests, finally selling members of the team to the American Museum of Natural History and utilizing the profits to help finance their future expeditions.
During the following several years, Peary and Henson would make multiple efforts to achieve the North Pole. Their 1902 effort proved terrible, with six Eskimo team members perishing as a result of too little food and supplies. Members of the team made more improvement during their 1906 excursion: Backed by President Theodore Roosevelt and equipped using a then state of the art boat that had the potential to cut through ice, the team could sail within 174 miles of the North Pole. Melted ice blocking the sea route thwarted the assignment’s end. The team’s final effort to achieve the North Pole occurred in 1908. Of Henson, expedition member Donald Macmillan once noted, “With years of expertise equivalent to that of Peary himself, he was crucial.”
The expedition continued to the next year (1909). While other team members turned back, Peary and the ever-faithful Henson trudged on. Peary understood the assignment’s success depended on his handy comrade, saying in the time, “Henson must go all of the way. His trusty companion can not make it there without Henson.” On April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson, four Eskimos and 40 dogs (the excursion had started with 24 guys, 19 sledges and 133 dogs) eventually reached the North Pole—or at least they promised to have.
Victorious when they returned, Peary received many accolades for his achievement, but—an unlucky sign of the times Henson an African American, was mostly overlooked. And while Peary was lauded by many for his accomplishment, he along with his team confronted broad disbelief, with Peary having to testify before Congress about supposedly reaching the North Pole because of too little verifiable evidence. The truth about Peary’s as well as Henson’s 1909 expedition however remains clouded.
Henson spent another three decades employed as a clerk in a brand new York national customs house, however he never forgot his life as an explorer. Himself recorded his Arctic memoirs in 1912, in the novel A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. Henson also received a cherished gold medal in the Chicago Geographic Society. The next year, Henson worked with Bradley Robinson to compose his biography, Dark Companion. The long periods of separation during Henson’s expeditions took its price, and Flint divorced him in 1897.
Henson married Lucy Ross in 1906. They never produced any kids, but like Peary, Henson had relationships with Inuit girls in their expeditions. Henson failed to play a part in his son’s breeding, though in 1987 Anauakaq reunited with Peary descendants in America as recorded in the novel North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo. Henson died in nyc on March 5, 1955, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. The body of his wife, Lucy, was entombed there in 1968.