The history of Black explorers spans centuries, but unfortunately many of their stories are omitted from the storylines we hear about today. Take, for example, Black American Matthew Henson, who was part of Robert Peary’s 1908-1909 expedition to reach the geographic North Pole. Following the team’s successful attempt, Peary, a white man, received credit as the first person to reach the Pole. However, with further recorded proof in journals from the expedition, historians now believe Henson was the actual first person from this group to reach the North Pole.
Situations like Henson’s happen far too often to Black explorers, but thanks to the efforts of historians, writers, explorers, and more, reparations to give these Black heroes the credit they earned is ongoing. One person dedicated to continuing to tell the stories of Black explorers is J.R. Harris, a life-long New Yorker and explorer for more than 50 years. You can learn more about Harris, Henson, and other Black explorers in Part 1 and 2 of Derick Lugo’s Unlikely Stories Podcast.
And if you enjoyed these episodes, be sure to listen to Derick’s interview with Sibusiso Villane, the first Black man to summit Mount Everest.