Barbara Hillary, the first Black woman to stand on both the North and South Poles, passed away last month. The famed explorer, speaker, and climate change activist was born June 12, 1931 in New York.

 

Hillary grew up poor in Harlem but said in interviews that her mother encouraged enrichment through education. She attended the New School University, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in gerontology. Hillary was a nurse for 55 years, and also became a magazine publisher, founding “The Peninsula Magazine” in Queens, reportedly the first of its kind in the area.

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In retirement, Hillary discovered a passion for the outdoors and after snapping photos of polar bears in Canada, her wanderlust was ignited. Upon learning that no Black woman has ever set foot on the North Pole, Hillary started a fundraiser and reached out for sponsors to raise $20,000 for the expedition, raising $25,000.

Hillary reached the North Pole at the age of 75 in April 2007. She then became the first Black woman to stand on the South Pole in January 2011 at the age of 79. A breast and lung cancer survivor, Hillary continued to work in climate change activism as a speaker, doing so recently as this year in Mongolia.

Barbara Hillary was 88.

PHOTO: Barbara Hillary Twitter

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