African-American’s role in exploration told in play

To the pole and back

Playwright Oneal Isaac tells the story of Matthew Henson, an African-American who accompanied Commander Robert E. Peary to the North Pole, in the ninth annual Black History Month production Feb. 22 at Magnolia Mound Plantation.

The play, “Matthew Henson: African-American Explorer: To the Pole and Back,” was written by Isaac and is based on a true story.

According to Isaac, Henson went to sea when he was 12 years old. Befriended by the captain, Henson sailed around the world for the several years educating himself and becoming a skilled navigator.

Henson joined Peary in 1887 on an expedition to Nicaragua. Peary recruited him as a colleague, and on Peary’s eighth attempt to reach the North Pole, Henson was made a member of the team of six who would make it there.

Isaac, an award-winning actor, storyteller and playwright, will portray Henson in the production, which is partially funded by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Isaac has received an Artist Fellowship in Theatre from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and has been an arts ambassador for the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. He also received a special humanities award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.