Skip to content

Celebrating Black History in the Outdoors

Mathew Henson

Matthew Henson

Explorer Henson was the first to set foot on the North Pole. After seven attempts to traverse Greenland and reach the North Pole Robert Peary, four Indigenous natives from Northern Canada and Henson successfully reached the North Pole on April 6th, 1909. Due to the dismissive period of African American exploration, Henson would be widely dismissed as the first explorer to reach the North Pole until subsequent trek analysis years later.

“The lure of the arctic is tugging at my heart. To me the trail is calling! The old trail, the trail that is always new.”

Colonel Charles Young

Colonel Charles Young

Captain Young entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1884. Young was the ninth African-American to be admitted, the third and last to graduate until nearly half a century later. Soon after graduation, Young joined the 9th Cavalry, commanded his fellow officers, and by 1894 was an educator teaching Military Sciences & Tactics at Wilberforce University. By 1903, Charles Young inherited the title Acting Superintendent of Sequoia National Park, the 1st African American Park Superintendent, leading his comrades to construct the first roads and trails that other troops were unable to do in the years before.

Shelton Johnson

Previous Yellowstone National Park and current Yosemite National Park Ranger and historian of the Buffalo Soldier, Shelton brings to life the stories of African Americans who lived, worked, and spent time in Yosemite National Park over the past 150 years. Through his historical recounts, Shelton reminds us that we all own a piece of our national parks.

Dr. Alma Johnson Illery in her as founder / director of Camp Achievent, an intergrated summer camp in Fayette County. Photo from Katherine J. Hamm Collection

Alma Illery

Alma Illery was a civic leader who lived in the Hill District right here in Pittsburgh. To name a few of Alma’s many accomplishments, she helped integrate hospitals in the 1940s. Alma successfully lobbied Congress in 1944 to establish January 5th as George Washington Carver Day. In addition, she established the Achievement Club and ran Camp Achievement for decades which was a Fayette County backcountry summer camp for inner-city kids. The Alma Illery Health Center on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood is named after her

Back To Top