Henson's autobiography retells the explorer's 400-mile polar trek by dogsled over treacherous ice with Robert E. Peary in 1909.Henson's autobiography retells the explorer's 400-mile polar trek by dogsled over treacherous ice with Robert E. Peary in 1909.Hide synopsis
Description:Printed and bound by Wayne and Judy Dasher. 98 p. THIS IS A...Printed and bound by Wayne and Judy Dasher. 98 p. THIS IS A REPRINT, NOT THE ORIGINAL PUBLICATION. TEXT ONLY. Friends of Arctic exploration and discovery, with whom I have come in contact, and many whom I know only by letter, have been greatly interested in the fact of a colored man being an effective member of a serious Arctic expedition, and going north, not once, but numerous times during a period of over twenty years, in a way that showed that he not only could and did endure all the stress of Arctic conditions and work, but that he evidently found pleasure in the work. The example and experience of Matthew Henson, who has been a member of each and of all my Arctic expeditions, since '91 (my trip in 1886 was taken before I knew Henson) is only another one of the multiplying illustrations of the fact that race, or color, or bringing-up, or environment, count nothing against a determined heart, if it is backed and aided by intelligence. Henson proved his fitness by long and thorough apprenticeship, and his participation in the final victory which planted the Stars and Stripes at the North Pole, and won for this country the international prize of nearly four centuries, is a distinct credit and feather in the cap of his race. -R.E. Peary. Approximately 8 x 9. Surname index. Color of cover may vary.
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I loved this book; Henson has a wonderful, gentlemanly style with flashes of understated wit-- some of this humorous passages remind me of Mark Twain. From what I've gathered reading numerous other works on polar exploration, Henson also understates the incredible difficulties & challenges of life in Arctic climates. I really enjoyed his recounting of the efforts involved, and really did wish the book were longer or that I could read more by Matthew Henson (I've since seen references that he wrote an article a few years after this book, but haven't gotten it yet). His interactions with & attitudes toward the Eskimos are fascinating to read.
From an historical perspective, it's illuminating to realize just how invisible this man has been. I have read dozens of polar exploration books, seeing references to the 'big' names-- Peary, Greely, Brainard, Franklin, etc, along with their many, many assistants. But I never heard of Matthew Henson until I stumbled across this book while wandering in the forest of Google. It is deeply sad that this intelligent, highly capable man has been largely lost to history because of his race... as have thousands of others.
We have come a ways from then, thankfully. I'm glad Matthew Henson had been able to explore all his capabilities, instead of fading into clerking & obscurity after reaching the Arctic.
The book was great. It was a wonderful first hand account of an important time in American history. His descriptions of the arctic conditions and its hardships, gave me a much greater appreciation for his courage and intellect. Henson was a first class explorer and a first class man that has only recently received his due.
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