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Barbara Hillary (1931 -2019), first African-American woman to reach the North and South Pole

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Barbara Hillary (1931 -2019), first African-American woman to reach the North and South Pole

Barbara Hillary was the first African-American woman to reach both the North and South Pole. The nurse and community activist survived lung cancer at the age of 67. Five years later after a trip to Canada to photograph polar bears, she found out that a black woman has never reached the North Pole. She went on a mission and learned how to ski and got in shape with a personal trainer. Hillary skied her way to the North Pole in April, 2007, at the age of 75. She then became the first black woman to reach the South Pole at the age of 79 in 2011. Earlier this year at the age of 87, she made an adventure trip to Mongolia. In Mongolia, she met with many different rural people to learn their culture and bring awareness to global warming.    

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Died: Sunday, November 24, 2019. (Who else died on November 24?) 

Details of death: Her death at the age of 88 was announced on her official Twitter page and confirmed by her friend Deborah Bogosian to 1010 WINS radio in New York City. 


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What she felt when she reached the North Pole: “If you could combine all the positive emotions into one ball, that’s what I felt.” - Video interview with AOL 

What they said about her: “Everything about her was fascinating, convention-breaking, and confounding. Her record-setting treks, her defeat over cancer, her arduous fight to get her house back after Hurricane Sandy. Her years as a nurse, her gigs as a taxi driver and in sundry other jobs that gave her more than a few stories to tell. Her appreciation for archery, guns and knives, big trucks and big dogs. The roses and miraculous tomatoes she grew.” 

“She died in the season of 24-hour sunlight at the South Pole.” - Her friend Deborah Bogosian told 1010 WINS radio in New York City 

Interview with Barbara Hillary:

Full obituary: 1010 WINS Radio   

Related lives: 

Matthew Henson: First Man on the North Pole? 

Jerrie Cobb (1931 – 2019), NASA’s first female astronaut candidate 

Anna Mae Hayes (1920 – 2018), first female General in the U.S. military