The Undiscovered Explorer

(2005) An hour-long radio documentary about William Clark’s slave, York, the only African American on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Narrated by Danny Glover. Distributed nationally on over 180 public radio stations.

Claire Schoen: Director, writer, sound recordist/editor
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Executive Producer
Awards: Gracie and Clarion Awards: Best Documentary.

Program Summary: The story of York is both heroic and tragic. On the Lewis and Clark Expedition, York experienced a rare level of freedom for a slave. Yet upon his return he was plunged back into a life of subservience, which ultimately shattered his life. York has been characterized as a valiant hero, an insolent and sulky slave and a happy, dancing darkie. Yet, the facts of York’s life are based on fragmentary evidence. We know about him only through the filter of others; stories and histories which reflect their authors’ own world view. York’s story is bigger than his biography. It serves as a reflection of America. And it helps us to learn a great deal about who we are — as a people and as a society.