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Is "Polar racism" unintentional?
Fiennes "reignites
..a race row..."
Polar Racism?
Peary Diary
Fiennes defibrillates
Polar Failure
Man-hauling vs dogs
World's Greatest
Fiennes explorer or travel writer?
Who found Ubar?
Fiennes and Stroud polar suffering
Guinness backs Peary
Guinness history?

$ Titles of nobility

UK Guardian says:
"...a question of why it took so long to acknowledge Henson's role as an explorer...It has been turned into a race issue ...Fiennes's claim has infuriated supporters of Henson. Had he been white, says...Peary's great-grandson, I don't think there would be any question...that Peary took a reliable witness and reached the Pole. It is only because of racist attitudes that the question of reliability has come up."
In this slim book Randall Kennedy investigates the social history of Nigger, a racial slur used for centuries to bring insult and degradation upon the Black population particularly in the Jim Crow South.
Source: Polar honour revives racial dispute. by Ben Summerskill, society editor Observer, Sunday December 31, 2000. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4111108,00.html
Unintentional racism, a tutorial
Guardian writer Ben Summerskill may be as confused and mistaken with historical facts as many non-experts are. A professor who regularly lectures on racism (and requested to remain anonymous) at one of England's famous Universities (you know, like Oxford or Cambridge, etc.) was so upset by the Summerskill article that the professor telephoned me from Britain and explained how subtle "inadvertent racism" can be.  My comments in red (scroll down page) focus on what we assume is unintentional racism in this account of Henson's role.
Historical inaccuracy, corrected
I see inaccurate comments made in Summerskill's article that reveal distortions of the facts concerning Peary's 1909 expedition. These seem to me to simply reiterates the words of second or third hand sources who were parroting the vindictive book written by colossal fraud Fred Cook in 1911. The latest of these writers, Wally Herbert, (Noose of Laurels, 1988) was completely discredited in the USA by a scientific investigation.

The Guardian Observer article: This is the event Fiennes is commenting upon:
"Sir Ranulph Fiennes, ...has reignited a race row which simmered in America for much of the twentieth century by rejecting claims that one of the first people to reach the North Pole was a black man." (continued further down the page...)
Historical inaccuracy, corrected
"...critics of Peary and Henson had claimed that the two could not have traveled 30 miles a day as they claimed during their final five days on the way to the Pole. Suffering from frostbite, Peary was pulled on a sled." (Ben Summerskill)
(above) Photo from Northwest Passage—a professional expedition outfitter who have no problem traveling as fast as Henson & Peary did! See what the surface looks like near the Pole? Who says you can't travel 30 miles a day? Answer: Persons who do not use dog teams (polar man-haulers) or people who do not know what they are talking about.
(April 1) Came on at a good clip for about 4 hours when the sledges overtook me. After that obliged to sit on sledges most of the time ...or else run to keep up. Kept the pace for 10 hours....Have no doubt we covered 30 miles but will be conservative & call it 25...(April 3) Dogs frequently on trot...(April 4) over 10 hours on a direct course, 25 dogs often on the trot, occasionally on the run. 25 miles....(April 5) dog on trot much of the time. Last two hours on young ice of a north & south lead they were often galloping. 10 hours. 25 miles or more. Great....(April 6) The rise in the temp to -15˚ has reduced friction of the sledges 25% & gives the dogs appearance of having caught the spirits of the party. The more sprightly ones as they trot along with tightly curved tails, repeatedly toss their heads with short barks & yelps. 12 hours on a direct course. (30 miles)
(Peary's Diary)
(Ben Summerskill article, continued...)
Matthew Henson and his employer, Robert Peary, claimed to have been the first men to reach the North Pole, in April 1909. But when the two returned to the US later that year the achievement was questioned. The credibility as witnesses of Henson and four Inuits who accompanied Peary was doubted because they were not white. Peary had left behind a white co-explorer 130 miles before reaching his target.

Henson's case was a cause célèbre for black Americans for 90 years after he was first photographed with an American flag at what was claimed to be the top of the world. Many observers assumed that the controversy had been laid to rest when his achievement was finally admitted only weeks ago as America's National Geographic Society posthumously awarded Henson the coveted Hubbard Medal, an honour given to Neil Armstrong and Ernest Shackleton.

Now Fiennes, ... says: 'Sadly, I doubt that Henson and Peary ever got to the North Pole. It can be mathematically proved that they could not have done it on the basis of their notes.

'There is still a question of why it took so long to acknowledge Henson's role as an explorer. But other early explorers were never properly acknowledged too. It has been turned into a race issue and one where people have to be very careful about what they say.'

Fiennes's claim has infuriated supporters of Henson. 'Had he been white,' says Bert Peary-Stafford, Peary's great- grandson, 'I don't think there would be any question, regardless of his navigational skills, that Peary took a reliable witness and reached the Pole. It is only because of racist attitudes that the question of reliability has come up.'

'People use the argument that the Inuits weren't credible witnesses as evidence of a race thing,' Fiennes told The Observer. ' They should have qualified this position by explaining that the Inuits were ignorant of the latitudinal and longitudinal methods of navigation. That's why they were not credible.'

For years, Henson has been held up to black American schoolchildren as a hero whose achievements were denied because of endemic racism in the American establishment. He has been claimed to be a victim of the 'whitewashing' of history."
Excerpted from:
Observer, Sunday December 31, 2000 ;
by Ben Summerskill, society editor
MacMillan was a key person on the 1909 expedition. Was MacMillan only an employee?
Henson was Peary's right hand man, his top field assistant for 18 years in the arctic. Was he only an employee?
From National Geographic Magazine
Awarded 90 years after Robert Bartlett (a white employee) received his Hubbard Medal.

Allen Counter, Audrey Mebane

Matthew Henson was posthumously awarded the National Geographic Society's highest honor: the Hubbard Medal...The honor is long overdue...The medal recognized Henson's role in several arctic expeditions with Robert E. Peary, including their historic 1909 trek to the North Pole.
More at NGS...By Jennifer Mapes November 29, 2000...
Ron Suskind won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1995 for his stories on Cedric Jennings, a talented black teenager struggling to succeed in one of the worst public high schools in Washington, D.C. Suskind has expanded those features into a full-length nonfiction narrative, following Jennings beyond his high-school graduation to Brown University, and in the tradition of Leon Dash's Rosa Lee and Alex Kotlowitz's Trite as it may sound to say, this book teaches a lesson about the virtue of perseverance, and it's definitely worth reading.
Unintentional racism, a tutorial
"Henson died in 1954,..." Wrong, Henson died in 1955. In 1954 he visited President Eisenhower in the White House.

"...after spending his later life carrying luggage and parking cars for a living."
Henson did not spend his later life carrying luggage or parking cars. Henson at first lectured across America about his 1909 North Pole trip, wrote his book about it in 1912, was later appointed to a Government position in the Customs service where he was promoted to Clerk and retired on a Civil Service pension. He spent his later life as a distinguished member of the Explorer's Club, and was interviewed by Lowell Thomas in 1939. Yes, the same Lowell Thomas who made England's T.E. Lawrence famous by calling him "Lawrence of Arabia" in his newspaper stories that brought world wide attention to Lawrence. Read the Lowell Thomas interview, of Henson.
Henson speaking at the Explorer's Club

Then in 1947 Henson's official biography Dark Companion was published which propelled him into the public eye.

"Suffering from frostbite, Peary was pulled on a sled."
Peary was not suffering from frostbite. 10 years earlier Peary had frozen his toes. That was 1899, not 1909. Peary learned to compensate for a lack of toes. He ran and walked fast by "shuffling" his feet. But he continued to explore just fine, Ben. He mapped the entire unknown northern tip of Greenland—a nearly fatal journey (they almost starved to death) of well over 1,000 miles. Then Henson & Peary came very near the Pole (about 200 miles) during their famous 1906 expedition. Peary was in remarkable physical shape. A really tough "old man"!
[photo: Peary/Henson 1909]

And what do you mean he was pulled in a sled? The correct term is sledge. The sledges were pulled by dogs. They had lots of dogs. Yes, Peary rode on his sledge when they were near the Pole because he said the dogs were on a gallop and otherwise he had to run to keep up! Read this

"Matthew Henson and his employer, Robert Peary, Note: "employer" is used inadvertently in a racist manner. No one ever refers to Bartlett, MacMillan, Borup, Dr. Goodsell, etc. or any other white team member this way. Henson had been at Peary's side for 18 years in the arctic. Henson wanted to reach the Pole as much as Peary did.

 ...claimed to have been the first men to reach the North Pole, in April 1909. Not "claimed", they achieved it as a fact of history. Britain's own Royal Geographical Society examined Peary's records and endorsed his discovery in 1910. So it has been a fact of British history since 1910. Didn't you know that, Ben?

But when the two returned to the US later that year the achievement was questioned. "The two?" What is that supposed to mean? Peary returned to the US with an entire ship of crew and expedition members. The achievement was questioned by whom? Irresponsible newspapers? The claim of the colossal fraud Fred Cook was questioned. Peary's claim was never doubted by anyone knowledgeable or intelligently informed about the 1909 expedition. The issue was that Cook claimed he reached the Pole before Peary, it wasn't that anyone truly thought Peary hadn't reached the Pole. Cook himself, however, later wrote his vindictive book in which he certainly did attack everything about Peary, his North Pole achievement, and the men who exposed Cook as a fraud.

The credibility as witnesses of Henson and four Inuits who accompanied Peary was doubted because they were not white. That is a really distorted way to look at it. You blame the non-white part of the team for a problem? No one actually doubted Peary. Peary was a highly credible Naval officer. This credibility issue came later from the long term negative campaign of Fred Cook through his vindictive book, and later from his equally vindictive daughter Helene Vetters. This "reliable witness" slur was reactivated most recently by Scotland's own Sir Wally in his 1988 book that forms the basis of his current assertion that he was the first Scotsman to reach the North Pole. Herbert was simply reiterating Cook's 1911 slur about Peary taking "the Negro" in place of a "white man." Recycling public domain Peary slurs is something Herbert has recommended to another anti-Peary writer.

Peary had left behind a white co-explorer 130 miles before reaching his target." Left behind a white co-explorer?  Bartlett was supposed to go back just like the other 18 men on the support teams who returned to land after their work was done. Co-explorer? Bartlett was not a co-explorer. He was just paid help and Peary was his employer. Get it?

Class dismissed...
"Ben, I want you to stay and write on the board 100 times..."

Copyright © 2002 Lord Vernon Russell-Twittledorf Robinson, MCE (Member of the California Empire)