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Who was York on the lewis and clark expedition?

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York (c. 1770-March 1831?) was an American slave belonging to Clark, who is best known both for his service with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and subsequent demands for freedom.

In 1804, York was compelled to leave his family and accompany Clark and 40 others on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The expedition's journals present York as a large, strong man who shared the duties and risks of the expedition in full. He was the only African American member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and in the wilderness served as an equal member, with freedoms and responsibilities unlike back East. The assignments given him, as recorded in the journals, attest to his skill in scouting, hunting and field medicine.

When the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean, York voted along with the rest as to where the Expedition would build winter quarters. Most significantly, at a time in which slaves were forbidden to carry weapons, York not only carried a firearm but also frequently shot game such as buffalo.

Historian Robert B. Betts speculates that the freedom York had during the Lewis and Clark expedition made resuming enslavement unbearable. After the expedition returned to the United States, every other member received money and land for their services. York received nothing, since as a slave he was considered mere property. York apparently asked Clark for his freedom based upon his good services during the expedition. Failing that, York pleaded to be reunited with his wife, who was owned by a man in Louisville; he even offered to work in Louisville and send Clark all his earnings. Clark refused, pleaded financial difficulties, although he let York send a couple of buffalo robes to his wife and, a couple of years later, visit her for a few weeks.

Clark's attitude is recorded in letters to his brother. When York returned from his visit to his wife, Clark considered him still "insolent and sulky" and disciplined him with beatings. He considered selling York in New Orleans, or hiring him out to a "severe master". York continued demanding freedom, Clark hired him out to others.

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