Cover image for North Pole legacy : black, white, and Eskimo
North Pole legacy : black, white, and Eskimo
Counter, S. Allen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Montpelier, VT : Invisible Cities Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 254 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, c1991.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E99.E7 C747 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Upon hearing rumors that the men who discovered the North Pole had fathered sons while on their expedition, S. Allen Counter arranged to visit the remote villages where Robert Peary, the credited discoverer, and Matthew Henson, the black man whose contributions to the expedition are widely ignored, stayed during their travels. This book recounts the astonishing story of Counter's trips to Greenland and the relationships he develops with the Eskimo ancestors of the two men. At the same time, new evidence about Peary's journey to the Pole is examined, and it comes to light that Henson, was the true hero.

Author Notes

Samuel Allen Counter Jr. was born in Americus, Georgia on July 8, 1944. He received a degree in biology from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in 1965. He studied neurophysiology and received a doctorate in communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1970 before joining Harvard Medical School. He later received a medical degree from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where he studied audiology and deafness.

His interest in discovering the cause of widespread hearing loss among the Inuit of Greenland also allowed him to tracked down the descendants of Matthew A. Henson, a black explorer on Robert E. Peary's 1909 expedition to the North Pole. Counter wrote several books including North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo and A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. He died of cancer on July 12, 2017 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The Great North Pole Controversy raged across front-page headlines in the early 1900s as Robert Peary and Frederick Cook vied for recognition as the first white man to reach the North Pole. Neither claim can be verified with certainty, and the mystery still arouses great passion and eloquence. Abramson takes Cook's side and reveals what he sees as the nastiest, most vicious scientific fraud ever perpetuated: Peary's relentless and vicious defamation of Cook's character and achievements and insistence that he, and only he, reached the North Pole. Cook, a young doctor, joined Peary's 1891 Arctic expedition and discovered his deep affinity for the people and challenges of Greenland. While Cook was kind, generous, and intelligent, Peary was cold, competitive, and cruel, maniacally determined to reach the North Pole. Abramson traces Cook's activities up to and including his arduous journey to the pole, comparing his honest endeavors with the shenanigans of Peary and his influential supporters. While Abramson's scenario for the conspiracy against Cook is persuasive and dramatic, his astonishing accounts of the hardships of arctic exploration capture the imagination and make for entrancing reading. While Counter supports Peary's claim, his primary focus is on Matthew Henson, the man responsible in many ways for the success of Peary's expeditions, the only African American to have traveled above the Arctic Circle, and a world-class explorer formerly relegated to obscurity by white historians. Intrigued by the rumor that Henson and Peary had fathered children with Eskimo women, Counter travelled to Greenland to investigate. Sure enough, he soon meets Anaukaq, an energetic man in his eighties, dark-skinned, curly-haired, and immensely proud to be Henson's son. After being introduced to Peary's son, Kali, Counter, through great effort, manages to bring the two men and their families to America. His warm and vivid descriptions of these remarkable family reunions and the belated honors bestowed on Henson are triumphant and moving. While the truth about what actually happened on the spinning ice at the top of the world 80 years ago may never be known, at least the story of Matthew Henson has been told. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1986 the author, a neuroscience professor at Harvard, went to northern Greenland to conduct a study of ear disease in Eskimos as well as to interview them about early American explorations in that area. And he had yet another goal: black himself, Counter had long admired black explorer Matthew Henson, who accompanied Robert Peary to the Pole. Familiar with rumors that each had fathered children in Greenland, the author traced ``dark-skinned'' Eskimos to two remote settlements, where he found Anaukaq Henson and Kali Peary, octogenarians who had never met their American relatives. Counter, who subsequently arranged a three-month trip to the U.S. for both men, here offers a charming account of their meetings with kinfolk in Massachusetts, New York and Maine, visits to their fathers' gravesites--Henson's in Brooklyn, N.Y., Peary's in Arlington, Va.--and tours of national monuments. The book, an intriguing postscript to polar exploration, also examines the Peary-Henson collaboration and supports the claim that they indeed reached the Pole. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Counter, a Harvard professor, recounts how he located the half-Eskimo octogenarian sons of polar explorers Matthew Henson and Robert Peary and, after many difficulties, helped them to achieve their lifetime dream of visiting the United States to meet their American relatives and view their fathers' graves. Counter also tells how he succeeded in getting official recognition for fellow African American Henson's indispensable role in Peary's Arctic explorations. This is a fascinating, well-told story. Though the Peary saga has been recounted often, the human interest component added here will give the book an appeal beyond the usual polar adventure readership. This is recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Jonathan F. Husband, Framing ham State Coll. Lib., Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Counter is a neuroscience professor and head of the Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations at Harvard. Long an admirer of Matthew Henson, the African American who accompanied Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1909, Counter has done more than anyone else to bring attention to Henson's achievements. In northwestern Greenland in 1986, Counter met two men, the sons of Peary and Henson, each born in 1906 to Eskimo women. Each wanted to visit his father's homeland and Counter arranged it. This book largely concerns those two men, Kali Peary and Anaukaq Henson, their lives in Greenland, and their 1987 trip to the US to meet their American relatives. Counter includes information about Peary and Henson, their relationship, and their polar expeditions. And, as is virtually obligatory for such a book, he concludes with a discussion about whether or not Peary, Henson, and their four Eskimo companions acutally reached the Pole. Sensitively written, the book will appeal to persons interested in polar exploration, Greenland Eskimo culture, or African American history. All levels. -M. C. Mangusso, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Table of Contents

Nicholas Sullivan
Forewordp. xi
Chapter 1 Anaukaq, Son of Mahri-Pahlukp. 3
Chapter 2 "You must be a Henson"p. 8
Chapter 3 The Amer-Eskimo Hensonsp. 16
Chapter 4 Cousin Kalip. 29
Chapter 5 "Hallelujah!" / "Not interested"p. 38
Chapter 6 Black and White Partnersp. 49
Chapter 7 The Struggle for the Polep. 63
Chapter 8 "Now I know I have relatives"p. 77
Chapter 9 Growing Up Eskimop. 89
Chapter 10 Keeping the Faithp. 106
Chapter 11 Defeating Tornarsukp. 124
Chapter 12 The North Pole Family Reunionp. 144
Chapter 13 Back Home in Greenlandp. 175
Chapter 14 Welcome Home, Matthew Hensonp. 179
Epilogue: The Controversy: Did Peary and Henson Reach the North Pole First?p. 189
Afterword: North Pole Legacy 2001p. 210
Notesp. 243
Glossaryp. 247
Acknowledgmentsp. 253