Bust of a slave explorer who accompanied Lewis and Clark is installed by an unknown artist

An anonymous artist installed a monumental bust of York

York, an Enslaved Black Man Who Was on Lewis and Clark Expedition

Historically, artworks have appeared suddenly in many places, like the enigmatic monolith, but this past saturday saw a truly moving pop-up. In Portland, Oregon’s Mount Tabor Park, a new statue was covertly installed by an unnamed guerrilla designer. The brave bust shows York, a Black slave who traveled with Lewis and Clark on their illustrious westward trip. An plaque describing the man’s life’s recorded details is located beneath it. The epitaph states that despite being a slave worker, York “executed all the obligations of a complete participant of the mission.” He mediated trade agreements with Native American tribes, attended to the sick, and was a good shooter. York requested his release after the Corps of Discovery’s trip back east. York requested his release from the Corps of Exploration. Clark turned down his appeal.

A monument meant to honor Harvey Scott, a 19th-century newspaper columnist whose conservative opposition to reforms like women’s suffrage caused his similarities to perish during a surge of figurine topplings that followed the black rights protests in October 2020, once stood on the pedestal where the memorial now stands. The bust “pays tribute to York at a time when we all have to remember the essential role that African Americans have played in our heritage and represent on the tragic event of slavery—a tragedy that persists to reverberate,” according to the artist, who wants to remain anonymous in order to “keep the discussion about the subject.”

Commissioner Carmen Rubio expressed her support for the provocative monument in a previous statement this week. In a Fb post, she said, “The artwork representing York, the first Black explorers to cross North America, should make all of us think on the achievements and lack of visibility of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other Oregonians of color—especially artists.” “It will remain in place for the near future,” said Director Long and I, along with the Parks & Recreation crew. This setup should be viewed as both the significant work that it is and a much-needed wake-up call to city leaders to speed up the process of eliminating white supremacy from our organizations, especially our local authorities where many procedures exclude community engagement and dissuade interaction.

The community has widely lauded and shown interest in the construction of this nameless guerrilla sculpture, despite the fact that it disregarded the customary public consultation process that accompanies the creation of such a memorial. The monument may continue to stand as long as it doesn’t endanger people’s safety, in accordance with Portland Parks & Recreation policy—at least until a more clear commitment is reached.

A massive bust of York, a Black enslaved participant in the Lewis and Clark expedition, was erected by an unidentified guerilla sculptor in Portland’s Mount Tabor Park.

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