Matthew Henson ( 1866-1955), the descendent of enslaved people, has a plausible claim to being the first explorer to reach the North Pole, despite the many challenges that he faced. Orphaned, at age 12 he set sail around the world as a cabin boy, where he learned to read, write and navigate. When he was 22, a chance encounter with naval engineer Robert Peary resulted in 18 years of Arctic exploration. On April 6th 1909, Henson, Peary and four Inuit named, Egingwah, Ootah, Ooqueah and Seegloo, drove their dogsleds to the North Pole, where Henson planted an American flag.

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The trail is calling me. The old trail, the trail that is always new.

- Matthew Henson

J. Robert Harris

Explorer, backpacker, author, speaker and advocate

J. Robert “J.R.” Harris has been exploring and backpacking long distances for more than 60 years, in some of the most remote and inhospitable wilderness areas in the world, unsupported and mostly alone. He has written numerous articles about his experiences, as well as a book entitled, Way Out There: Adventures of a Wilderness Trekker. J.R. is a respected speaker at schools, universities, and outdoors organizations such as the AMC, Sierra Club, ADK, Audubon Society, the Explorers Club, L.L. Bean, and REI. His objective is to share his experiences and motivate others to pursue a healthy outdoors lifestyle. His trail name is “School.”

Harris sits on the Board of Directors of the famed 118-year-old New York based Explorers Club, and advocates for increasing the number of people who spend time in nature, believing that by getting out there people will learn to appreciate, and therefore protect our public lands and open spaces.

When not in the wilderness, Harris is the founder and president of JRH Marketing Services. Established in 1975, it is the oldest African American-owned marketing research and consulting firm in the United States. In 2016, he was inducted into the Market Research Hall of Fame.

There can be no conquest to the man who dwells in the narrow and small environment of a groveling life, and there can be no vision to the man the horizon of whose vision is limited by the bounds of self. But the great things of the world, the great accomplishments of the world, have been achieved by men who had high ideals and who have received great visions. The path is not easy, the climbing is rugged and hard, but the glory at the end is worthwhile.

- Matthew Henson