American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Laurence Pringle
The little-known life of York, the African American slave owned by William Clark, and his contributions to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition are examined in this carefully crafted Society of School Librarians International Honor Book. Award-winning author Laurence Pringle gives an accurate account of York's life—before, during, and after the expedition. Using quotations from the expedition's journals, he tells how York's skills, strength, and intelligence helped in the day-to-day challenges of the journey. Artists Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu consulted with a Lewis and Clark expert to create thoroughly researched and stunning watercolor paintings of York's life.


Reviewed: 2020-12-01
American Slave, American Hero is the story of York, the slave of William Clark. The book starts with young slave and young master growing up in Virginia and Kentucky abd tells of the fun, responsibilities and the social roles of slaves during that time. The story discribes the Corp of Discovery and the vital role that York played in their adventures. Several of the incidents mentioned in the book focus on the fact that most of the Native Americans where the Corp traveled had never seen a black person before. The Native Americans treated York as "big medicine" and believed that he was more powerful than the other white travelers. Laurence Pringle does a nice job of portraying York's importance and contributions to the Corp through his use of the journal quotes of Clark and other members of the Corp. I really liked this book. I thought it was realistic in that Laurence Pringle did not "fudge" on the harsh realities of slaves during this time period. He said that York did not have a choice in going with the Corp of Discoveries. He also explained that York was allowed to vote on Corp decisions even though slaves were not allowed to vote back in the "settled" world. Pringle's honesty with the facts makes the story more realistic and believable. I also really liked the watercolor illustrations that bring the story to life. The reading levels are upper elementary and middle school. Students who would not normally be drawn to this type of book will like the easy reading and colorful pictures. This book would make a good read aloud or a great independent read. In the classroom, this would be a good book to use during the study of The Corp of Discovery, Black History Month, or maybe a unit on unsung heroes. I think it would be a good book to have in any elementary or middle school collection.
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