The conquest of the North Pole was an elusive, almost impossible goal at the beginning of the last century. But a son of patrician parents, Robert E. Peary, and a son of sharecroppers, Matthew Henson, shared a dream of conquering the unconquered North Pole and were brave enough to risk their lives numerous times before they finally succeeded. Henson's great physical stamina and his ability to speak Inuit and develop warm relationships with the peoples of the Arctic were indispensable to the quest. He mastered the complexities of the dog sled and led the team across the layers of ice that covered the frigid, threatening Arctic Ocean. Henson and Peary's jubilation at finally reaching the Pole was later tempered by the controversy that swirled around their achievement. Once their deed was recognized, African-American Henson still was not. It took history a long time to hail him as a hero of exploration.
Dolores Johnson lives in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author and/or illustrator of more than 17 books for children, many on African-American themes. They include Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family and The Children's Book of Kwanzaa. This is her first book for National Geographic.