African American History
Matthew Alexander Henson
“It'll work, if God, wind, leads, ice, snow, and all the hells of this damned frozen land are willing.” Matthew Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in a cabin near Nanjemoy, Charles County, Maryland. His parents Lemuel and Caroline were freeborn black sharecroppers. Matthew Henson mother died when he was two years old. His father remarried a widowed neighbor, Nellie. Seven years later Matthew Henson father dies and Nellie took after the kids but she abuses them. A few months after his 11th birthday Matthew Henson decides to run away after being in bed 3-days from a beating Nellie had given him. He ran away to Washington D.C. where he was taking in by Janey Moore of "Janey's Home-Cooked Meals Cafe" where he also worked there. Soon after he began working on a ship based as a cabin boy. By Captain Childs of the Katie Hines. When Henson told him that he was an orphan, Captain Childs relented and made the young man his cabin boy. Captain Childs was kind to Henson and under his tutelage Henson became an able-bodied seaman. Childs also instructed him in math, history, geography and the Bible as they traveled to such exotic locations as China, Japan, North Africa and the Black Sea. When Captain Childs died Henson gave up the sea, and eventually found a job as a clerk at a furrier back in Washington, D.C. It was there that he met Robert E. Peary, an explorer and officer in the U.S. Navy Corps of Civil Engineers. On the recommendation of the store owner, Peary hired Henson as his valet for his travel expedition to Nicaragua. In the field and Peary learned that Matt had been trained at sea, and that he performed a hundred odd tasks with remarkable ingenuity and dexterity, he was quick to realize Matt would be of greater value assisting the survey party. Robert Peary promoted Matt to the transit crew. After the expedition Matt goes back to work as a stock boy. Several months later Peary finds a Job...