This Day in History: 1909-04-06

Matthew Alexander Henson is the first member of the first expedition to reach the geographic North Pole. Henson collaborated with Robert Peary on seven voyages to the Arctic over a period of nearly 23 years, spending a total of 18 years on expeditions together. Henson achieved a degree of fame as a result of participating in the expedition, and in 1912 he published a memoir titled A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. As he approached old age, his exploits received renewed attention. In 1937 he was the first African American to be made a life member of The Explorers Club; in 1948 he was elevated to the club’s highest level of membership. In 1944 Henson was awarded the Peary Polar Expedition Medal, and he was received at the White House by Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. In 1988 he and his wife were re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2000 Henson was posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society. Learn more.