This week’s open thread theme focused on black explorers. The last explorer I am highlighting is York.
York (1770 – unknown) was an African American slave best known for his participation with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. As William Clark’s slave, he performed hard manual labor without pay, but participated as a full member of the expedition. Like many other expedition members, his ultimate fate is unclear. There is evidence that after the expedition’s return, Clark had difficulty compelling York to resume his former status, and York may have later escaped or been freed, but nothing is entirely clear on this.
York was born in Caroline County near Ladysmith, Virginia. He, his father, his mother Rose and younger sister and brother Nancy and Juba, were slaves of the Clark family. York was William Clark’s servant from boyhood, and was left to William in his father’s will. He had a wife whom he rarely saw, and likely he lost contact with her when she was sent to Mississippi in 1811. He is also known for his heroic bravery for saving Lewis from a Grizzly Bear. It is not known if he fathered any children.
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