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York
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Slave
    (1770-circa 1832)
    Born in Caroline County, Virginia
    Owned by William Clark
    Member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-06)
    Only black man and only slave to take part in the Expedition
    Nobody bothered to record his first name.
    As a joke, he told one group of Indians that before Clark caught him, he lived in the wild and ate people, adding that 'young children were very good eating.'
    Writing about the Expedition's sexual encounters with Indians, Lewis noted, 'York participated largely in these favors, for his color seemed to procure him additional advantages from the Indians, who desired to preserve among them some memorial of this wonderful stranger.'
    Clark claimed to have freed York, but said that York regretted being free after failing in business and tried to return to being Clark's slave.
    He risked his life to save Clark in a flash flood and Lewis in a grizzly bear attack.
    When the Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean, he had a full vote in deciding where to establish winter quarters.
    After their return, he was the only Expedition member not to receive money and land for his services.
    He spent years asking Clark to either free him or at least lend him out to someone around Louisville, so he could be near his wife (who had a different owner).
    It is unclear whether Clark freed him or if he ran off.
    Most historians consider Clark's story about York wanting to return to slavery to be a crock of BS.

Credit: C. Fishel


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