An unknown artist has replaced the statue of Harvey Scott toppled by protesters in Mount Tabor Park last year with a bust of the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In October, a statue of Scott, the editor-in-chief of The Oregonian from the 1870s through the beginning of the 20th century, was among several monuments in Portland torn down amid protests against racial injustice. Scott was a vocal opponent of women's suffrage, and the statue was a frequent target for vandalism prior to being removed.
Seemingly overnight, however, a new statue has appeared on the pedestal at the top of Mount Tabor where Scott once stood—that of York, an enslaved man who became the first African American to cross North America as part of the Corps of Discovery.
Reader Peter Miller shared photos of the statue and a transcription of the accompanying plaque:
"The first African American to cross North America and reach the Pacific Coast.
Born into slavery in the 1770's to the family of William Clark, York became a member of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Though York was an enslaved laborer, he performed all the duties of a full member of the expedition. He was a skilled hunter, negotiated trade with Native American communities and tended to the sick. Upon his return east with the Corps of Discovery, York asked for his freedom. Clark refused his request.
The date and circumstances of his death are unclear."
In a statement, Adena Long, director of Portland Parks & Recreation, describes the artwork as "a complete surprise," but says that if the monument is determined safe for public viewing, it will remain in place, at least temporarily.
"We should regard this installation for both the important piece that it is," City Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio said in press release, "as well as a much-needed reminder to city leaders to hasten our work of rooting out white supremacy in our institutions—particularly our city government, where many processes exclude community participation and discourage engagement."
It's not the only public representation of York found in Portland: A memorial also stands on the campus of Lewis & Clark College. A bronze statue depicting York alongside Clark also stood at the University of Portland until it was removed last year due to vandalism.