Everyone knows Lewis & Clark, but did you know that there was a black man who was also part of the expedition? His name was York. As William Clark’s slave from boyhood, he participated as a full member of the expedition and was present when the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean.
York was known for his skill in scouting, hunting, field medicine, and manual labour in extreme weather conditions. Lewis had noted in his journal how York had saved him from certain death from a grizzly bear during the expedition. The Native Nations treated York with respect, and he played a key role in diplomatic relations, mainly due to his dark skin. After the expedition returned, every member received money and land for their services, every member except York. York asked Clark for his freedom based upon his good service during the expedition, and Clark refused. York pleaded to be reunited with his wife, who was a slave in Louisville; he even offered to work in Louisville and send Clark all his earnings. Clark still refused, and sold York to a brutal master in 1811, where he remained a slave at least until 1816. No reliable information has been published on York after that year.
Today we honour York, a man history books, until recently, have forgotten.
Here is a theatrical rendition of Lewis, Clark and York’s expedition beautifully articulated and narrated by Hasan Davis and Jim Holberg. I love Hasan’s passion in acting out and expressing the part of York.
Here’s Stefan Milo with a more detailed description of Lewis, Clark and York’s expedition. I love this version as well because of the casual nature in which he tells the story. Thank you Stefan for doing your small, not so small, important part in helping bring this story to light.
York Statue in Louisville, KY
Follow Our Black History Month Series:
- Day 1: Black History Is Everywhere
- Day 2: The Danger Of A Single Story
- Day 3: Super Bowl Sunday
- Day 4: African American Authors
- Day 5: The Reason Behind Black Lives Matter
- Day 6: Viola Desmond
- Day 7: George Dixon
- Day 8: Vivien Thomas
- Day 9: Frank Robinson
- Day 10: Gladys Mae
- Day 11: Hattie McDaniel
- Day 12: Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor
- Day 13: Hazel Dorothy Scott
- Day 14: Viola Liuzzo
- Day 15: James Zwerg
- Day 16: Chuck Cooper
- Day 17: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Day 18: The Freedom Riders History
- Day 19: Albert Jackson
Albert Earl Jr.
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