The Lewis & Clark Expedition was a pivotal moment in American history. But the story of York, a slave to William Clark from boyhood and comrade on this journey, has been obscured by omission and stereotype.

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An artists' rendering of York, the only Black member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and a slave of William Clark.

An artists' rendering of York, the only Black member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and a slave of William Clark.

Courtesy of Michael Haynes

York’s personal story is not well known, though the story of Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery is. How is it that we as a culture remember some pieces of history and not others? Some of what we know about York comes from the oral histories of various native peoples who encountered York as the Corps made its way across the continent. Other pieces of information about York’s role come from William Clark’s journals and letters.

When the Expedition returns to the Eastern United States, York’s life becomes even more controversial. Denied his freedom by Clark, historians continue to disagree over two versions of York’s ultimate fate. “Oregon Experience: Searching for York,” paints a portrait of this unofficial member of the Corps of Discovery as it explores the ways in which history is written. Shot on location at Fort Vancouver and Fort Clatsop, the program is an engaging and provocative look at a man shrouded in mystery.

Resources

Books

Robert Betts, In Search of York: The Slave who went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, et al, Gary Moulton, Editor, The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery

William Clark, James J. Holmberg, Editor, Dear Brother; Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark

Washington Irving, John Francis McDermott, Editor, The Western Journals of Washington Irving

Zenas Leonard, John C. Ewers, Editor, Adventures of Zenas Leonard, Fur Trader

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, et al, Nicholas Biddle, Editor, Journals of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark

Zoa L. Swayne, Do Them No Harm; Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce

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Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Elliott Coues, Editor, The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Frank X. Walker, Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York

Articles

York of the Corps of Discovery

Oregon Historical Quarterly

A Notion about Freedom; the relationship of William Clark and York

Gateway Heritage

Big Medison: York's Life During and After the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Speech at the "Confluence of Cultures" conference University of Montana

Web sites

Blackpast.org

Discovering Lewis & Clark: York: Fallout Over Freedom by Ahati N.N. Toure

The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York

Tamastslikt Cultural Institute

Filson Historical Society

Recognizing York: A community initiative

Broadcast Date: August 05, 2010

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THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

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