|A Negro Explorer
at the North Pole
The High Point of 19th Century Exploration,
November 18, 2000
That phrase "the high point of 19th century exploration" came from
a rare book dealer who had one of the few remaining 1912 originals
for sale at $2,700. Its true! Henson is a charming, earthy writer
who takes you with him across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole.
Expedition leader Peary's book is dull by comparison. Here are all
the first hand details told with great excitement by The Legendary
Explorer himself. Matthew was like a brother to the Inuits who
saved both his life and Peary's on the trek to the North Pole. His
Appendix I contains fascinating explanations and insights about
the way Inuits survived 100 years ago. This is the "real thing" - the drama of a complex, dangerous
journey that required the cooperation and direct assistance of an
entire Inuit village with over 200 dogs! The Inuit referred to him
as a brother and "...the greatest of all men who came from the
distant land of the South." And he truly was.
|A Negro Explorer
at the North Pole
by Matthew A. Henson, 1912.
A Negro Explorer is back!
Publisher Verne Robinson had a goal to create an authentic
reproduction to mitigate the damage done by bad reproductions put
on the market over the past 31 years. One version boasted that it
was “Illustrated with contemporary photographs.” Why were Matt’s
photos not good enough? Another had photos rendered as
unrecognizable black blobs. Why does this
work need a third introduction, 32 pages long, from a junior
college librarian who tries to convince you Matt was too ignorant
to have written a book? Who has earned the right to place
their words in the company of Robert E. Peary, Booker T.
Washington, and Matthew A. Henson? No one, in our opinion.
Well-intentioned individuals obviously did not like the racial
term Negro. They felt that it was their obligation to change
Henson’s title from “A Negro Explorer…” to “A Black Explorer…”
This is the first edition in 88 years to restore the original
title. Matt chose the title and Verne robinson restored it, despite
31 years of contrary efforts.
The new publisher resolved not to censor the Foreword or the
Introduction, not to change the title and to put back Appendix I & II. In this edition
everything has been restored. Words are spelled the way Henson spelled
them. No one changed his “Esquimos” to Eskimos, let alone
modernize it to Inuit. His hyphenated “to-day”, as an another
example, was common usage in 1912.
The REAL Matt is Back
January 29, 2001 Reviewer: A reader from Palo Alto, CA
Thanks to Verne Robinson for taking the time and expense to
reproduce this book in all its original glory. Matt's matter of fact, easy-to-read style and his thorough
descriptions immediately pull you into his amazing journey to the
Those who have questioned his claims, especially in light of
his skin color, will find obvious contrast between Matt's simple,
clear and honest way of telling this incredible story, and the
exaggerated and inconsistent claims of would-be explorers and
their backers who are unwilling to accept his place in history. More kudos to
Verne Robinson for resisting the tide of those who
would prefer to see a white man in Matt's place
Henson speaks for himself
29, 2001 Reviewer: A reader from Old Saybrook, CT USA
In looking down today's non-fiction best sellers lists, it's
sometimes difficult to remember that people have accomplished
great things and take the time to write about them. When all you
need is a twisted weekend with a politician or a twist on the
latest fad diet to qualify for a 7 figure advance on a 300 page
masterpiece, readers should feel cheated.
In fact, there's no need to feel that way any longer. Mr. Bradley
Robinson has faithfully restored and republished a work of
substance in Matthew Henson's A Negro Explorer at the North Pole.
A word about the restoration: Mr. Robinson has not "revised" or
altered the work to reflect modern terminology, not even spellings
(I'm old enough to have learned reading from books where "to-day"
was hyphenated). I really appreciate this, not only does it
bolster the authenticity of the book, it immerses the reader in
the time. This is critical to understanding the enormity of the
Originally published in 1912, a mere three years after the great
journey, Mr. Henson presented what I think of as a lecture series
based on his journal entries on the famed Peary Polar Expedition
of 1909. Though Dark Companion (from the same publisher.. also an
excellent book) provides the whole story of Matt's life and great
detail about the Greenland years and earlier polar explorations,
this book is based on Mr. Henson's journal of the 1909 assault on
No one who reads this book could possibly hold onto the idea that
Peary kept Henson for the last drive in order that he could pass
off fraudulent readings. No one can read this book and think that.
The writing reminds me a great deal of the books I grew up on.
One part of the book that might be overlooked is the appendix. In
it, Henson provides a first hand anthropological article on the
arctic natives. Along with his brief scientific notes, it's this
that makes me wish that there had been a third book detailing the
science of the arctic from his perspective. Perhaps the excellent
Matthew Henson website will continue to serve as a repository for
the science and passion of this story. Mr. Robinson's work there
is nothing short of great. It is a true labor of love.