Black History: Special Delivery!!


Barbara Hillary (1931 – )

Barbara Hillary (1931 – ) is the first known African American woman to reach both the North and South Poles. She was born in New York City and raised by her mother. Her father died when she was just a year old. Hillary earned both a bachelors degree and masters degree from the New School University in New York City. She worked in the field of nursing until her retirement. Hillary is also the founder, editor-in-chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a multi-racial publication and non-profit located in Queens, NY.

A two-time cancer survivor; (breast cancer in her 20’s and lung cancer at age 67), Hillary underwent surgery at age 67 which reduced her breathing capacity by 25%. She became interested in Arctic travel after retiring from her nursing career. After learning that no African American woman had ever reached the North Pole she was determined that she would be the first person on record to do so. She raised over $25,000 to help support her Arctic expedition and successfully made it to the North Pole on April 23, 2007, at the age of 75. She dedicated the trip to her mother Viola Jones Hillary. Hillary was also one of the oldest individuals to accomplish this feat. Just 5 years later, she became the first African American woman on record to stand on the South Pole on January 6, 2011, at age 79.

In addition to her travel expeditions, Hillary has a long history of community activism. She is the founder of Arverne Action Association. The organization is committed to improving life in Arverne, NY as well as the surrounding area (Rockaway Peninsula Community). She has also been active as a motivational speaker and has been featured on NBC News and Her next adventure will be an expedition to Mongolia in February 2019.

To learn more about Barbara Hillary, check out this video clip: