History reveals little about York. He was a slave. Yet he played a significant role in the expedition to the Pacific Northwest by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from 1803 to 1806. William Clark's slave was known only as York, though one historian claimed his first name was "Ben."
As part of many programs at Indiana University Southeast to mark Black History Month, the life of York will be reenacted by Kentucky actor Hasan Davis during a presentation called: "York and the Lewis and Clark Expedition," 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 in the Hoosier Room in the University Center on campus.
Admission is free and the event, sponsored by the IU Southeast History Club and the Office of Equity and Diversity, is open to the public.
Glenn Crothers, Assistant Professor of History at IU Southeast and a board member for the Falls of the Ohio Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee, arranged for Davis' appearance. He said he wants to increase local awareness of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Last fall, Crothers won a 2001 Award for Instructional Development and an award for Special Merit from Kentuckiana Metroversity.
"The interesting thing about York is he's treated like an equal on the expedition," Crothers said, adding that York was even allowed to vote with other members of the expedition. York was instrumental in breaking down the initial barriers between the members of the expedition and Native Americans, Crothers said.
While York had a taste of freedom during the expedition, he was treated again as a slave by Clark when the crew returned to St. Louis. York tried to negotiate his freedom to be with his wife in Louisville. It was 10 years before Clark finally granted York his independence.
A community activist from Berea, Ky., Davis is known for his one-man performance chronicling the life of Berea College's first Black student, A.A. Burleigh. Davis himself is a graduate of Berea College and University of Kentucky Law School.
For more information about the York performance by Davis, call Crothers at (812) 941-2279.