Mary Meachum and her husband, Reverend John Berry Meachum, were staunch abolitionists who dedicated their lives to educating and freeing enslaved people.
On the night of May 21, 1855, Mary attempted to help a small group of enslaved people cross the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Illinois, where slavery was outlawed. At least five enslaved people were caught, and Mary was arrested and charged in criminal court for assisting the “fugitives.”
In 2001, the National Park Service recognized the site of the escape – which is now included in the Mississippi River Greenway – as part of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Every year, the Great Rivers Greenway celebrates the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing with a reenactment at the site. The free community event also includes food, drinks, children’s activities, local artists and makers, live music from various eras and skits that showcase historical scenes from Black communities in St. Louis.
This year’s theme, From Field Hollas to Hip-Hop, recognizes the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, as well.