African-American Matthew Alexander Henson, born on August 8, 1866, and four Inuits accompanied U.S. Naval Commander Robert E. Peary when he planted the U.S. flag at the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Henson became an Arctic expert during Peary’s first two failed expeditions. By the third attempt, which began in July 1908, Henson’s strength, knowledge of the Eskimo language and dog driving skills made him an essential member of the team. Whether Peary’s party actually reached the North Pole or missed it by as much as 60 miles due to a navigational miscalculation remains controversial to this day.
Photo: Library of Congress