"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
P O Box 1752 Paris TX 75461 ~ 903.783.9232 ~ naacp6213@yahoo.com
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Monday, August 8, 2011

S. Allen Counter, DMSc, PhD

In 1981, the president and deans of Harvard University established the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations with the mandate to "improve relations among racial and ethnic groups within the University and to enhance the quality of our common life."  In pursuit of this mission, the Foundation seeks to involve students of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds in the ongoing enterprises of the University.  ~ Mission Statement, Harvard Foundation

Much of the awareness we have today of African American explorer Matthew Henson can be credited to Harvard professor S. Allen Counter. Henson and Robert Peary are credited with locating the Geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909, with Henson arriving about 45 minutes before Peary who was riding in a sled due to ill health.

Dr. Counter, a neurophysiologist as well as explorer and ethnographer, was on a scientific mission to the northern portion of Greenland in 1986 when he encountered the 80 year old sons of Henson and Robert Peary, fathered during the explorers' 1906 unsuccessful journey in search of the North Pole. Counter brought Anaukaq Henson and Kali Peary to the US the next year, along with 12 of their family members. They were introduced to American relatives and honored by President Reagan, the Mayor of Washington DC, and the President of Harvard University.

Counter with Matthew Henson's grandson Ussarquak
and his wife
Dr. Counter petitioned President Reagan to have the remains of Henson and his wife Lucy reinterred from a Bronx cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony was conducted on April 6, 1989 with full military honors and they are buried next to Peary and his wife with a monument noting Henson's achievement.

Henson has also been honored by the US Navy with the 1996 commissioning of the USNS Henson oceanographic exploring ship. In 2000 the National Geographic Society gave Henson its highest honor, the Hubbard Medal. On the hundredth anniversary of the polar expedition, Dr Coulter again went to Greenland to celebrate with Henson's descendants, and a "Centennial Commemorative Case" containing artifacts from the 1909 expedition was taken by submarine to the exact location of the North Pole.

Dr. Coulter has documented his work with the Henson and Peary descendants in a book and documentary video North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo. 

He has visited Suriman to study descendants of enslaved people, recorded in I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken  and in the PBS specials I Sought My Brother  and Vanishing Tribes. Journeys to Equador are noted in Lost Africans of the Andes, and her has led medical mission trips in that country to treat the effects of lead poisoning from ceramics and mercury poisoning in gold mining. He has also led relief efforts in Haiti, working with celebrities such as Will Smith and Debbie Allen.

Dr. Coulter is also the founding director of the Harvard Foundation which sponsors frequent lectures and multi-cultural events dedicated to "improving intercultural understanding, equality and and peace among students" by promoting an atmosphere of civility and racial harmony.

He was born July 8, 1954 in Americus, Georgia and attended Tennessee State University, earning his BS in biology and audiological science in 1976. He received his PhD from Case Western Reserve University in 1979 and did postgraduate research at Harvard University, joining the Harvard Medical School Faculty as a Professor of Neurology in 1981. In 1989 he earned a Doctorate of Medical Science at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and in 2004 was appointed Consul General of Sweden in Boston and New England by the decree of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Jan Eliasson, Swedish Ambassador to the UN.

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