The event, which will be held at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, will feature historical re-enactments, a choir competition, interpretive information and activities for children
On Saturday, May 5, 2018, from noon to 5 p.m., residents from around the St. Louis region are invited to watch local history come alive at Missouri’s first nationally-recognized Underground Railroad site, the historic Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. That day, area residents can experience the sights and sounds of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair from the perspective of people of color. The “Unfair Fair: Prejudice on the Pike” event will chronicle the untold story of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition that welcomed the world – except for people of color – to St. Louis. This is the 16th annual event being held at the Mary Meachum site to commemorate the historical significance of the site and the importance of African American history in St. Louis.
Residents of all ages attending the free celebration on May 5 can walk along a “Pike” on the greenway that will recreate the festivities of the 1904 World’s Fair and show how most people of color who were at the Fair were either working or were part of a display. Original, life-size photos will represent the “Anthropology Village” that featured humans on display, with information explaining how various cultures were exploited for others’ enjoyment. Visitors can also experience living history via appearances and interaction with several costumed performers on the main stage and throughout the festival site. Portrayals will also show how the people of color who did attend were segregated and treated poorly by onsite Fair vendors and others.
The event will feature music and food and drinks for purchase. Other highlights will be Vaudeville-inspired acts, a magic show by Circus Harmony, interactive science exhibits from the St. Louis Science Center as well as international acts such as Middle Eastern Dance and African drumming. Guests are welcome to come in 1904 attire or just as they are.
“The 1904 World’s Fair has shaped our region’s culture and continues to be a source of pride to this day,” said Angela da Silva, Adjunct Professor at Lindenwood University and historical reenactor director and event manager. “However, not everyone was invited to the fair, nor treated equally. While just four years earlier, the Paris Exhibition hailed an exhibit about the ‘progress of the American Negro’, back in St. Louis in 1904, people of color were treated in sub-human ways.”
The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing site is located on the Mississippi River Greenway on the banks of the Mississippi River, just north of Merchant’s Bridge in North St. Louis City. (Click here for a map.) The site commemorates the work of Mary Meachum, a free woman of color who guided many slaves to freedom by helping them to cross over to the free state of Illinois, and later helped to spearhead education efforts for men, women and children of color in St. Louis.
“This event seeks to share stories from the World’s Fair that have never been told,” said Linda Harris, Senior Vice President of Administration and Compliance for Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, a partner on the event. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Missouri’s first National Underground Railroad Historic Site and let people experience the world’s fair through the eyes of people of color.”
Open to all ages, this event is free, and is a partnership of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, National Black Tourism Network, Youth & Family Center, National Underground Railroad Network, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis County Library, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Historical Society, Circus Harmony, Missouri Division of Tourism, Missouri Humanities Council. For more information, visit www.MaryMeachum.org.