Lessons in Black History – YORK

yorkYORK – The Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the western territories of the United States is a part of history most children learn in school, including the participation of Sacajawea. But most kids never learn about York, a slave owned by William Clark, who was a valuable member of the expedition—and even saved his master’s life at one point. During the two-year adventure, York was afforded the same rights and freedoms as the other members of the party, and his contributions are recorded in the expedition journals. Some historical accounts claim that Clark promised to set his slave free at the end of their journey. Clark never made good on his promise, and after the expedition York was once again treated as property, and a second class citizen. He was kept from his wife, a slave owned by another man. After enjoying freedom during the expedition, York did not take well to being a slave again, and Clark resorted to beating his slave for being “insolent and sulky.” There is no official record of York’s ultimate fate. Some believe he escaped to freedom, others believe Clark finally set him free, and others believe he died a slave.

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