Matthew Alexander Henson (August 8, 1866 – March 9, 1955) was an American explorer and long-time companion to Robert Peary; amongst various expeditions, their most famous was a 1909 expedition which claimed to be the first to reach the Geographic North Pole. A black American and an employee of Peary's (who was notoriously difficult with his charges), Henson did not achieve contemporary recognition in an America where racist views were still common. His contributions to his and Peary's arctic achievements went largely unrecognized until decades later.
Matthew Henson was born in Baltimore, Maryland on August 8, 1866. In Henson's early life, his family moved to Washington D.C. to escape from the Ku Klux Klan. In Washington D.C., his mother died and his father could not take care of him. He went to live with his uncle, and got education till 6th grade. Then, his uncle could not take care of him and his father had died, so Henson was forced to survive on his own. He got a job as a dish washer and figured out that the life of adventure was for him, by listening to sailors that came in the cafe he worked at.
Matthew Henson walked back to Baltimore to become a cabin boy on a three-masted merchant ship called Katie Hines. At first, Captain Childs was reluctant to bring a young man on board. When Henson told him that he was an orphan, Captain Childs relented and made Matthew his cabin boy. Childs taught Henson in math, history, geography and the Bible as they traveled around the world. Henson got to see places such as China, Japan, North Africa and the Black Sea. When Captain Childs died, Matthew gave up on sea life and went back to Washington D.C. and found a job as a furrier.
Henson met Peary at the furrier where Henson was working in 1887, and was hired as a "valet" for an expedition to Nicaragua. Henson would remain with Peary for the large part of the next two decades, much of that time spent in attempting to reach the North Pole; Henson was admired by the Inuit population for his sled-driving skills and his command of the local language, leading Peary to observe that Henson "was more of an Eskimo than some of them." 
In 1912 Henson wrote the book A Negro Explorer at the North Pole about his arctic exploration. Later, in 1947 he collaborated with Bradley Robinson on his biography Dark Companion. The 1912 book, along with an abortive lecture tour, enraged Peary who had always considered Henson no more than a servant and saw the attempts at publicity as a breach of faith.
Henson died in 1955 and in 1961 an honorary plaque was installed to mark his Maryland birthplace
During their expeditions, both Henson and Peary fathered children with Inuit women, two of whom were brought to the attention of the American public by S. Allen Counter, who met them on a Greenland expedition.
With an Inuit woman named Akatingwah, Matthew Henson fathered his only child, a son named Anaukaq. After 1909 Matthew Henson never saw Akatingwah or his son again, though he did receive updates about them from other explorers for a time. His son Anauakaq, who died in 1987, arrived in the United States with Kali Peary, Robert Peary's son, on May 29, 1987, to visit his father's family and grave site. Anaukaq and his wife Aviaq had five sons who, in turn, had many children of their own who still reside in Greenland.
The "discovery" of Anauakaq and Kali and their meeting with their Henson and Peary relatives were documented in a book and documentary entitled North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo.
Matthew Henson is also a relative of actress Taraji P. Henson ("The Division", Hustle & Flow).
On April 6, 1988 Henson was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery near Peary's monument. Many members from his American family and his Inuit family (Anauakaq's children) were in attendance.
In October 1996, the United States Navy commissioned USNS Henson, a Pathfinder class Oceanographic Survey Ship, in honor of Matthew Henson.
On November 28, 2000, the National Geographic Society awarded the Hubbard Medal to Matthew A. Henson posthumously. Dr. S. Allen Counter petitioned the National Geographic Society for many years to present its most prestigious medal to Henson. He attended the ceremony with Mrs. Audrey Mebane, Henson's 74-year-old great-niece. The medal was presented at the newly named Matthew A. Henson Earth Conservation Center (MAHECC) in Washington, D.C., and accompanied a scholarship given in Henson's name by NGS.
The Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center in Washington, DC is named for him, as is Matthew Henson Middle School in Indian Head, Maryland and Matthew Henson Elementary School in Palmer Park, Maryland. Matthew Henson lived for a time in the landmark Dunbar Apartments in Harlem, in New York City
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Matthew.A.Henson was a black explorer and was a member of the 1909 expedition led by Robert Peary that is generally credited with discovering the north pole. Born in Charles Country, Maryland, Henson ran away from home at the age of 11, after both parents had died.As a teen, he traveled the world for six years as a hand aboard the merchant vessel Katie Hines.Henson was working as a hat store clerk in Washington, D.C., in 1897 when Peary hired him as a valet. Henson traveled with Peary on a survey expedition to Nicaragua in 1897 and accompanied him on seven polar expeditions.
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