Black History Month One-On-One: Barbara Hillary

February 1, 2014 6:00 AM

Barbara Hillary at the 1010 WINS Studios

Barbara Hillary at the 1010 WINS Studios

Written & Anchored By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins
Produced for 1010 WINS Radio by Sharon Barnes-Waters

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — From growing up in Harlem to making history by exploring some of the farthest reaches of our globe, it appears nothing will stop 82-year-old Barbara Hillary.

Larry’s BlogAdventurer Barbara Hillary

Hillary is the first known African-American woman to reach the North Pole (2007) and the South Pole (2011).

She says following her retirement, she was inspired to become adventurous after seeing an ad for photographing polar bears in Churchill, Canada. “And I said ‘ah ha, now that sounds exciting.'”

Hillary said it was on that trip that she fell in love with “the beauty of the North” and with the people “who did things a little out of the ordinary.”

More: Photo Gallery Of 2014 Black History Month Honorees

This adventurer is also a survivor, having battled breast cancer and lung cancer. Hillary said part of the negative comments she received in her pursuit of reaching the North Pole were about her limitations due to cancer.

“Part of your lung has been removed surgically. Why would you subject yourself to that hardship? That cold. The unknown. But I said, I’ll try. I’ll try. It hasn’t been done. Excitement, it hasn’t been done,” Hillary said.

Looking back on her expedition to the North Pole, Hillary described the weather as ever-changing. She said she found the South Pole to be even worse in terms of weather conditions.


“The South Pole is mountainous. We fly from the tip of Chile to the interior of Antarctica, which is incredibly beautiful…but it was so cold. I stayed in a tent waiting for weather for five days – no heat, 40 below,” Hillary said of her trek to the South Pole.

The North Pole, however, was Hillary’s first history-making moment. “I went crazy. I could hardly believe I had achieved it. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. And after I settled down, I dedicated the memory of the trip to my mother.”