Black Explorers should be celebrated for their feats in history. And what better time to commemorate their achievements than black history month.
Many pioneering black explorers have been overlooked in the past. But that does not mean that they did not play an important role in the world as we know it today. From ancient navigators to modern adventurers, we celebrate these exceptional pioneers this black history month.
Matthew Henson was a black explorer born in 1866 in Maryland, USA. Henson could be the first man to reach the North Pole. At the age of 22, he joined the explorer Robert Peary on an 18 year Arctic exploration that would change his life. On the 6th April 1909, Henson, Peart and four Inuit began their journey. Robert Peary claimed that he was the first person to reach the North Pole. Many years later, Henson contested this, claiming that he had stepped over the North Pole before Peary.
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AbuBakari II (Mansa Musa II)
Also known as the Voyager King, AbuBakari II ruled the kingdom of Mali during the 14th Century. Fascinated by what lay beyond the Atlantic ocean, he abdicated his throne in 1311 to pursue his obsession. This black explorer believed that the Atlantic must have another bank, just as the great Niger River. He sailed with 2000 ships and provisions from what is the coast of Gambia now. AbuBakr and his fleet were never seen again by their people. There is evidence that some African’s reached America. Whether it was AbuBakr and his fleet, no one really knows.
Born a slave in 1798, James Beckwourth made his name as a black explorer early in his life. In 1824 he joined the William Ashleys third on fur trapping expeditions in the Rocky Mountains. He made valuable inroads with the Crow Indians and learned much of their culture. In 1837, he made his way to Colorado, where he helped found the town on Pueblo. After fighting in two wars, he became a chief scout to General John C. Fremont. In 1850 discovered a safer route through the Sierra Nevadas which is now known as the Beckwourth Pass.
Mustafa Azemmouri (Esteban de Dorentes)
Born in 1501 in the coastal town of Azemmouri, Mustafa Azemmouri or Esteban de Dorantes was a Berber. In 1522 he was sold as a slave to Andreas Dorente and later joined him on the Narvaez expedition to Florida. He survived the journey and the many hardships that awaited them in Florida. He pioneered new routes and made contact with the natives by learning their languages and culture.
The Black Niño Brothers
Famous for joining Columbus’s first voyage to America, the Niño Brothers were sailors of African descent. The brothers – Pedro Alonso, Francisco, Juan, and Bartolomé – were all accomplished sailors. They were present on three of Columbus’s voyages. Pedro, the most famous of the brothers, was the helmsman of the Santa Maria. They sailed to many places, including modern-day Venezuela. They are a family of famous black explorers who played a pivotal role in America’s history.
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The Carthaginian navigator Himilco lived during the late 6th century BC and is the earliest black explorer on this list. Himilco navigated much of the Mediterranean sea, all the way to the northwestern shores of Europe. He travelled as far as ancient Great Britain and Ireland as well as what is now Portugal.
A famous black explorer, Juan Garrido, was a conquistador. Born in the Kingdom of Kongo in 1478, Juan was sold into slavery and became a Christian. He joined a Spanish expedition to Hispano, where he joined invasions of present-day Puerto Rico and Cuba. Juan also took part in the siege of Tenochtitlan in Mexico. For his service, Garrido was granted property outside of Tenochtitlan. He established a farm and cultivated the first wheat crop in the Americas.
Jean-Baptist-Point Du Sable
Born in present-day Haiti, Jean-Baptist-Point Du Sable is the founder of the settlement that is now the city of Chicago. Du Sable settled at the mouth of the Chicago River with his native wife Kittihawa. By 1790 his humble settlement became an important link in the region’s trade routes. Although he sold his property in 1800, he had solidified his reputation as the Father of Chicago. He is one of the most famous black explorers in American history.