Sixth-Grader Strives to Honor Slave with Commemorative Stamp

An eager crowd of parents and children filed into the atrium of the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. recently for the Museum’s African American History Month Family Day.  Though there were many activities available for kids that day, many in the crowd were there for one reason: to hear Jackson L. Davis, V., speak.  This phenomenal twelve-year-old boy was invited to speak at the Museum because of the national campaign he launched to get York – the slave who worked alongside Lewis and Clark on the first transcontinental expedition – honored with a commemorative stamp.  

The impressively articulate sixth-grader shared with the crowd that, in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriweather Lewis and William Clark to explore the land from Missouri all the way to the Pacific Coast and to establish trade relationships with Native Americans.  Among the 33 explorers was York, the slave of Clark, who experienced an unprecedented level of equality while on the expedition, serving as a doctor, a protector, a hunter and a diplomat between the explorers and the Native Americans they sought to trade with.  But after Davis finished writing his school paper on York, he was disturbed to discover that, while the other expedition members returned home as “rock-stars,” as Davis put it, receiving both land and money for their discoveries, York was unpaid for his work and returned to life as Clark’s slave.  And though Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea have been posthumously acknowledged with stamps and a coin for their work, Davis was upset to learn that York, the only African American on the expedition, has not yet been honored with a stamp like the others.   

Springing into action, Davis submitted a proposal to the United States Postal Service Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for York to be considered for a 2013 Black Heritage Stamp.  He also wrote to every living American president to raise awareness of his campaign, and so far has received letters of support from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, his own congressman, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, and many other leaders. The York stamp is now under consideration by the Committee.

Davis also shared that he’s been invited by the president of Lewis & Clark College to tour the Portland, Oregon school and visit the York statute there. He is selling York bracelets on his website, YorkBlackHeritageStamp.com, in order to fund his trip this spring.

As for why he has chosen a stamp as his way to honor York, Davis (the great-grandson of a D.C. postal worker) told EBONY: “Stamps are the most visible pieces of art. What better way to honor him?”

Jackson Davis hopes to become a historian when he grows up, and is documenting his journey on his Facebook page, Vote 4 York Black Heritage Stamp 2013.