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by Robert B. Betts
Download In Search of York: The Slave Who Went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark fb2
  • Author:
    Robert B. Betts
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    Colorado Associated University Press (1985)
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    182 pages
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    1933 kb
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The documentary evidence provided by Betts indicat.

The documentary evidence provided by Betts indicat.

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Betts, Robert B. (2000). Boulder: University of Colorado Press. ISBN 978-0-87081-714-4.

This was the only book I could find about the slave who went to the Pacific with Lewis & Clark. It was published by Colorado Associated University Press in 1985. very readable with good illustrations & footnotes. Teen and Young Adult. Literature & Fiction. Mystery & Thriller.

University Press of Colorado, 1985 (revised 2002). James Holmberg, Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark. Yale University Press, 2002, 2nd Printing. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011.

York received nothing, since as a slave he was considered mere property.

GO. History & Culture. Robert J. McNamara is a history expert who has been writing for ThoughtCo since 2007. Updated April 01, 2019. York was born in Virginia in about 1770, apparently to slaves who were owned by the family of William Clark. York and Clark were roughly the same age, and it seems likely they had known each other since childhood.

The Slave Who Went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark. Animals on the Trail with Lewis and Clark. New York: Clarion Books, 2002. The Lewis and Clark Companion: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Voyage of Discovery. New York: Henry Holt, 2003. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, 1985. The Arthur H. Clark C. Glendale, CA 1970. Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark. New York: Clarion Books, 2003. Wheeler, Olin D. The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804 - 1806. Clark's Unrepentant Captive. Who was York? Find a Grave.

I was curious as to what happened to York after his trip with Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River. The author gave a lot of subjective insight as to what life was like for York and other slaves and what may or may not have happened to York, but he really didn't have any information as to how York lived out his life. He did point out that there was evidence that York had been hired out as a slave to another slave holder, indicating Clark was not happy with York. He also pointed out that York may have been freed by Clark, but there is not written proof of the existence of the documents freeing him. He also speculates wildly that York may have returned to the west and died with his Indian friends. But there was more proof that he died of cholera after an unsuccessful try at running his own dray business which was supposedly given to him by Clark. It was not a particularly good read and far to subjective to be considered good history.
I read this book for the first time about ten years ago. On re-reading it, I experienced the same general mood I remembered from the first time around: sadness.

When the men in the Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis after their two-and-a-half year journey to the Pacific Northwest, they were amply rewarded, with money and land, by a gushing Congress. All of them but one, that is. York, William Clark's slave, had traveled with all the rest of the men. He's mentioned occasionally in the journals written by some of the expedition's members (not the least of whom are Lewis and Clark). He pulled his weight in the physical toil of the journey; he appears to have been a good hunter; his blackness, a fascinating novelty to a few of the Indian tribes the Corps encountered, seems to have been a cultural ice-breaker on at least one occasion; and he was accepted as a bona fide member by the other Corpsmen, given that there are no negative comments made of him by any of the journal writers and that he was given a vote equal to any other Corps member's on two separate occasions. Yet, on the Corps' return to civilization, York became invisible again: a man with no last name, a slave, a piece of property. Chattel.

So it is with the invisibles of history, the people who our cultural blindspots just won't allow us to see. For too many years, blacks and Indians have been the invisibles in US history. It's as if they never existed. They vanish without leaving a ripple on the pond, and this is incredibly sad.

That's why In Search of York is such an important book, because in it Robert Betts tried to overcome cultural blindness by painstakingly searching out and documenting as much information about York as he could. Needless to say, what emerges is more of a silhouette than a portrait. There simply isn't a lot of available information about York. But in the process, Betts (as well as James Holmberg, who ends the book with an historical essay on York) accomplishes two noteworthy things.

First, his research underscores the strangely schizophrenic relations between masters and slaves in antebellum America. York became Clark's servant when both were still boys. They grew up together, felt affection for one another, and served together on an adventure that could've only made them closer. But afterwards, back in proper society, Clark immediately reverted to the role of master, complained mightily that York had become surly and uppity, even daring to ask for his freedom, and didn't hesitate at all to hire York out to hard taskmasters as a form of punishment. Clark eventually did free York, but only a decade after the expedition. The strangeness of the relationship between York and Clark is not unrepresentative of the love/hate attitude many masters felt for their slaves. But it's still startling.

The second noteworthy feature of this book is Betts' exploration of how York (and, by implication, many other black Americans) was made invisible by caricature. In the novels and "history" texts about the Lewis and Clark expedition published during the first half of the 20th century, York is usually depicted in ways that conform to the racist stereotypes of the day. He comes across as thick-witted but jolly--your typical happy negro servant. He's portrayed as a randy stud who sired half-breed children with every Indian tribe the Corps encountered. Understandable but equally false are the latter revisionist attempts to transform York into a hero who was one of the expedition's most valuable members. There's absolutely no evidence for any of these portraits of York, negative or positive, and the real York drowns in them.

Robert Betts and James Holmberg have done more in this sad but enlightening book than shed some light on a specific historical invisible. They've also brought the cultural blindspots that creates invisibles to our attention, and in doing so have hopefully helped all of us to open our eyes just a bit wider.
Most Americans learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the first decade of the 19th century while in elementary school. It is an amazing tale, really. Two young men, friends, with military experience, one of them President Jefferson's secretary, are charged with assembling a team to examine the western part of the continent as the young U.S. attempts to acquire new territories. The group was gone engaged in this for several years, nearly perished numerous times, were saved almost providentially by the interventions of a young Indian girl, a dog, and - historian Betts demonstrates - the gifts and abilities of Clark's slave York.

This is truly an exhaustive examination of the literature for the realities, the myths, the possibilities, and the probabilities of the life of this important man. Betts tells the powerful and tragic tale of two boys, red-headed William Clark and the probably slightly younger family slave York who grew up together as playmates, served together on the Expedition, and then grew apart after returning to St. Louis. In a certain sense, York's tale is dependent upon Clark and others, Betts makes clear, since York himself wasn't equipped to document his own story. And since the primary purposes of journalists such as Clark, Lewis, and others was to tell a different story, York is illuminated briefly and obliquely. Betts does an excellent job of pulling together what is know, what may be sensibly surmised, and what is just wrong about preexisting Yorkian legend.
Fascinating book about Clark's slave, York and the Lewis and Clark expedition. It is also a cliff notes version of their exploring the American West, Sacajawea, etc. Sad tale in the end, this book would also make a terrific movie. Prior to this book I read Stephen Ambrose's lengthy novel on Lewis and Clark and came away so fascinated by York I ordered this book. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I would have just read In Search of York.
Refreshingly honest and accurate.
Well researched!
There's some good information about York on the web, but the best source is the biography In Search of York. This fascinating and well-illustrated book brings together all that is known of York. It is not only a great book about York, but one of the best books in the L&C literature.
I loved the way the author cleared the air on others who wrote about York in a negative way. The speculations about facts that are not known about York make a lot of sense. The footnotes alone were very informative. Great reading.