1909 — Matthew Henson becomes the first explorer to reach the North Pole

The most trusted of Robert Peary’s fellow polar explorers, Henson was a member of Peary’s party when they became the first people to reach the geographic North Pole. Henson was the very first – they actually overshot the target on their first attempt, but upon doubling back later that day, they could see from Henson’s footprints that he had been the first to arrive at their destination.

Henson was also the man who planted the flag of the USA at the Pole – and the polar expedition was but one of six similar expeditions that he and Peary embarked upon over the course of about 18 years. Henson was later honoured by being inducted into the Explorer’s Club in 1937, the first negro ever to join the club. Henson’s remains are interred in a place of honour in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Black Man — Stevie Wonder