African-American Scholar Dr. S. Allen Counter Speaks of Black Contributions to North Pole Exploration

African-American Scholar Dr. S. Allen Counter Speaks of Black Contributions to North Pole Exploration

March 04, 2015

Dr. S. Allen Counter, founding Director of the Harvard Foundation, and preeminent African-American scholar, explorer and neuroscientist, discussed his research on the contributions of Black North Pole explorer Matthew Henson as part of Lasell's celebration of Black History month.

Counter spoke to the Lasell community on March 3  in de Witt Hall in a program sponsored by Lasell's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Donahue Institute for Values in Public Life, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Center for Spiritual Life

Counter described his discovery of the contributions of Black North Pole explorer Matthew Henson who, along with Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, was one of the first two Americans to set foot at the North Pole.

In 1986, Counter traveled to the northernmost settlements in Greenland and found the eighty year-old Amer-Eskimo sons of the two North Pole discoverers Peary and Henson ( who fathered the children with Polar Eskimo women during their 1906 expedition). After bringing the existence of these men to international attention, Counter enabled them to fulfill their life-long dream of visiting the birth and resting places of their respective fathers and meeting their American relatives.

"They wanted to touch the skin of a relative [in the United States], so I obtained permission to bring them," said Counter.

Counter, with the support of the U.S. government, Harvard University and other agencies, was able to bring the men, and a handful of their relatives, to visit with Peary and Henson relatives. He also arranged for the disinterment of Henson from a New York grave to be buried with honors next to Peary in Arlington National Cemetery. A special ceremony was held during the visit.

On April 6th, 2009, Dr. Allen Counter traveled to the top of Greenland with a letter from President Barack Obama to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the North Pole discovery by Robert Peary and Matthew Henson.

He is also working on a project to establish the first memorial to African-American slaves in Washington D.C.

As founding Director of the Harvard Foundation, an agency established to improve intercultural understanding, equality, and peace among students, faculty, and the entire university community, Counter administers more than 200 faculty and student programs each year that serve to inform the Harvard community on matters of culture, ethnicity, and international concerns.

The recipient of numerous national awards, Counter has also served as Consul General of Sweden in Boston and New England and the Swedish Ambassador to the U.S.