How did Matthew Henson Receive Credit For His Achievements Over the Years?

Matthew Alexander Henson was an African American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary on seven voyages to the Arctic over a period of nearly 23 years. They spent a total of 18 years on expeditions together. Henson is best known for his participation in the 1908–1909 expedition that claimed to have reached the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909.

Henson said he was the first of their party to reach the North Pole. Henson’s life and accomplishments are significant because he was an African American who achieved great things in a time when racism and prejudice were rampant.

Despite his contributions, Henson’s achievements were often overlooked, and he did not receive the recognition he deserved. This article will explore how Matthew Henson received credit for his achievements over the years.

How did Matthew Henson receive credit for his achievements?

II. Early Life and Exploration

Matthew Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in Charles County, Maryland. The son of two freeborn Black sharecroppers, Henson lost his mother at an early age. When Henson was four years old, his father moved the family to Washington, D.C., in search of work opportunities.

His father died there, and Henson was forced to leave school and work to support himself. At the age of 12, he went to work as a cabin boy on a merchant ship, having been fascinated by stories of the sea. Aboard the ship for six years, he learned how to read, write, and navigate.

Later, while working as a clerk in a Washington, D.C. hat shop, he met Commander Robert E. Peary, who was planning a surveying expedition to Nicaragua.

Upon learning of Henson’s sailing and navigation experience, Peary hired him as a valet for his next expedition to Nicaragua in 1887. Peary was impressed with Henson’s ability and resourcefulness and employed him as an attendant on his seven subsequent expeditions to the Arctic from 1891 to 1909.

Henson played a crucial role in Peary’s expeditions, serving as his right-hand man and chief navigator. Henson’s expertise in dog-sledding, hunting, and Arctic survival was invaluable to the expeditions’ success. Henson was an integral part of the team that claimed to have reached the North Pole in 1909.

III. Lack of Recognition

Despite his contributions, Henson’s achievements were often overlooked due to racism and prejudice. Peary received most of the credit for the discovery of the North Pole, and Henson was relegated to the role of a valet.

Henson’s race made it difficult for him to receive recognition for his accomplishments, and he faced discrimination throughout his life. After the expeditions, Henson spent the next three decades working as a clerk in a New York federal customs house, but he continued to speak out about his experiences.

In 1912, he published a memoir titled “A Negro Explorer at the North Pole,” which detailed his role in the expeditions. However, the book did not receive much attention at the time.

Henson’s claim to have been the first to reach the North Pole was also disputed, and he was not invited to testify before Congress about the expedition due to a lack of verifiable proof. The truth about Peary’s and Henson’s 1909 expedition still remains clouded.

IV. Honors and Recognition

Late in his life, Henson received some long-overdue honors. In 1937, the prestigious Explorers Club finally admitted him as a member.

Congress awarded him the Hubbard Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the National Geographic Society, in 1946. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower welcomed him to the White House, and he was awarded an honorary degree from Howard University. After his death in 1955, Matthew Henson was buried at New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

In 1987, at the request of Dr. S. Allen Counter of Harvard University, President Ronald Reagan granted an exception to Arlington National Cemetery’s burial policy, and Henson was interred there with full military honors.

V. Legacy and Impact

Matthew Henson’s influence on future explorers and African Americans is immeasurable. He paved the way for other African Americans to pursue careers in exploration and science.

Henson’s life and accomplishments are a testament to the resilience and determination of African Americans in the face of adversity. His story is an inspiration to all who face obstacles and challenges in their lives.

What was Matthew Henson’s childhood like and how did it shape his future expeditions?

Matthew Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in Nanjemoy, Maryland, to free people of color who worked as sharecroppers. Henson’s parents died when he was a child, and he was sent to live with an uncle in Washington, D.C. After his uncle’s death, Henson moved to Baltimore, where he became a cabin boy on a merchant ship, the Katie Hines.

The captain of the vessel taught Henson to read and write, and he sailed the world with the Katie Hines for the next few years. By the age of 20, he had visited China, Japan, the Philippines, France, Africa, and Russia. Henson’s childhood experiences as a sailor and his education on the Katie Hines would shape his future expeditions with Robert Peary.

Henson’s expertise in dog-sledding, hunting, and Arctic survival was invaluable to the expeditions’ success. Henson’s early life taught him the skills he would need to survive and thrive in the harsh Arctic environment.

How did racism and prejudice impact Henson’s contributions to the discovery of the North Pole?

Despite his contributions, Henson faced discrimination throughout his life. Racism and prejudice impacted Henson’s contributions to the discovery of the North Pole.

Peary received most of the credit for the discovery of the North Pole, and Henson was relegated to the role of a valet. Henson’s race made it difficult for him to receive recognition for his accomplishments, and he faced discrimination throughout his life.

Henson’s claim to have been the first to reach the North Pole was also disputed, and he was not invited to testify before Congress about the expedition due to a lack of verifiable proof. The truth about Peary’s and Henson’s 1909 expedition still remains clouded.

What was Henson’s life like after the expeditions and how did he continue to contribute to society?

After the expeditions, Henson spent the next three decades working as a clerk in a New York federal customs house, but he continued to speak out about his experiences. In 1912, he published a memoir titled “A Negro Explorer at the North Pole,” which detailed his role in the expeditions.

However, the book did not receive much attention at the time.Late in his life, Henson received some long-overdue honors. In 1937, the prestigious Explorers Club finally admitted him as a member. Congress awarded him the Hubbard Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the National Geographic Society, in 1946.

Presidents Truman and Eisenhower welcomed him to the White House, and he was awarded an honorary degree from Howard University. Henson’s legacy and impact on future explorers and African Americans are immeasurable.

He paved the way for other African Americans to pursue careers in exploration and science. Henson’s life and accomplishments are a testament to the resilience and determination of African Americans in the face of adversity. His story is an inspiration to all who face obstacles and challenges in their lives.

VI. Conclusion

Matthew Henson was an African American explorer who achieved great things in a time when racism and prejudice were rampant. Despite his contributions, Henson’s achievements were often overlooked, and he did not receive the recognition he deserved. However, late in his life, he received some long-overdue honors and recognition.

Matthew Henson’s legacy and impact on future explorers and African Americans are immeasurable. It is important to recognize and honor overlooked contributions like Henson’s to inspire future generations to achieve great things. You should also read another article we wrote about him like: Matthew Henson’s Major Accomplishments to learn more.