5 Great Historical Black Explorers And Adventurers (Part II)

<< 5 Great Historical Black Explorers And Adventurers (Part I) (Previous Post)

In honor of Black History Month, here are five amazing black adventurers whose accomplishments have helped shaped recent history.

1. Matthew Henson: Arctic Explorer, first man to reach the North Pole

Henson was a born in 1866 in Maryland to free share croppers. At twelve, he became a Cabin Boy aboard a merchant ship, where he learned to sail, before meeting commander Robert Peary and accompanying him as a crew member on a surveying mission to Nicaragua. Peary was so impressed by Henson that he made him his “first man” and so, over the next twenty years, Henson accompanied Peary on expeditions to the arctic, learning to speak Inuit and becoming a skilled sled-dog driver. He, along with Peary and four Inuit people, was part of the six man team that made the final push tot he North Pole in 1909. In a newspaper interview he stated: “I was in the lead that had overshot the mark a couple of miles. We went back then and I could see that my footprints were the first at the spot.” Thus, it was Henson who planted the America Flag at the North Pole. He wrote a memoir of his arctic explorations titled A Negro Explorer at The North Pole which was published in 1912 and was honored by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before his death in 1955.

2. Bessie Coleman: Aviation Pioneer

Bessie Coleman was born in 1892 in Texas. At 23, she moved to Chicago and after hearing stories from American aviators returning form World War I, she decided she was going to be a pilot. However, no American flight schools would take her in on account of her being black and a woman, so she, after learning to speak french, departed for Paris. In 1921, she became the first American of any race or gender to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and the first African American woman ever to earn an aviation license. With additional training, Bessie Coleman then became a popular “barnstorming” stunt flier earning her the title of “the world’s greatest flier” and the nickname “Queen Bess.” She died in 1926, at the age of only 34, after being thrown from a faulty plane during preparation for a parachuting stunt.

3. George Gibbs: Antarctic Explorer

George Gibbs was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1917. He joined the US Navy in 1935 and was among the forty men chosen to join Richard Byrd’s third polar expedition. Gibbs helped establish the Antarctic Exploration West Base, and collected penguins for the Smithsonian institute. He was also commended twice for his service in Antarctica and would later serve as a naval gunner, work for IBM and act as an important Civil Rights leader in Minnesota. He passed away in 2000.

4. Guion Bluford: Astronaut

Bluford was born in Philadelphia in 1942 and studied aerospace engineering at Penn State, before moving on to earn both a M.S. And PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He earned his wings in the USAF in 1966 and then flew combat missions in Vietnam. In 1979, was chosen as a NASA astronaut and flew his first mission in 1983, boasting the title of the first African American in space. Bluford flew three more space mission with NASA until 1993, when he left to work in the private sector.

5. Sophia Danenburg: Mountaineer

Sophia Danenburg was born in 1972 in Illinois. She studied environmental science at Harvard and was a Fulbright fellow at Keio University in Tokyo. In 1999, she began climbing, and by 2005, she had already scaled Mount Rainier, Kilimanjaro, Grand Teton, Mount McKinley and many other prominent Mountains. Then, in spring of 2006, Danenburg began climbing Everest. She summited on May 19, 2006, becoming the first African American and first black woman from anywhere to reach the summit.