The man known only as York was born into the system of American slavery in Caroline County Virginia around 1774. At an Early age he was chosen, probably due to his intellect as well as his physical size, to be the body servant of William Clark.
After the Revolutionary War, the Clark Family moved to Kentucky, then the Western Frontier of the United States. There York grew from boyhood friend of William Clark into his expected role as Slave and body servant. By all records York carried out his role as defined by the institution of Slavery for nearly 30 years.
In the fall of 1803 William Clark was approached, by Meriwether Lewis, a long time friend and military companion. The President had charged him with finding or creating a route from the frontier of the United States to the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest. Clark agreed to join Lewis on this Mission of Discovery. York, it was assumed, would follow his master. But, he was never given the opportunity to refuse.
Over three years the Corps of Discovery faced and overcame the challenges of the NW territories. York exchanged his slave status for something that looked at times very much like equality, even to the point of having a fair vote in the business of the camp.
Once the Corps of Discovery began to meet and live among the Natives whom at that time Europeans still called Americans, York status was made even greater. Many of the Americans looked at York as a man touched by God. Many Indian tribes and nations gave York new names like Black Indian or Gift from God. On more than one occasion the presence of his black skin was enough to put concerned and distrust of white men at ease, possibly preventing violence and open conflict, one would think that after such an adventure York would return to "Civilization" a hero.
Unfortunately, when all was said and done, the volunteer patriots who had sacrificed for their country and endured such hardship at the request of the President, received large land grants and double the promised duty pay for the mission. York received nothing for his hard work and team spirit, not even the right to call himself a free man.
York, Explorer, is a story of brotherhood, friendship and ultimately, dissappointment. York discovered his spirit of freedom, what it was like to walk with head held high, to be an important member of a team, and in the eyes of some a god. But, when he returned to "Civilization" that new spirit nearly killed him. William Clark, a man that York would probably have freely given his own life for, could not imagine York as anything to him except property, a slave.