Celebrate History at the 17th Annual Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration -From Africans to Americans: 400 Years of History

May 4 Freedom Crossing Celebration, which will be held at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing site, will feature historical re-enactments written by three area playwrights, a choir competition, and activities for children. Free Ancestry Workshop April 27 at the St. Louis Central Library aims to inspire and encourage people of color trace their ancestry.

On Saturday, May 4, 2019, from noon to 5 p.m., residents from around the St. Louis region and beyond are invited to watch history come to life at Missouri’s first nationally-recognized Underground Railroad site, the historic Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. That day, area residents can experience 400 years of American history as told by three renowned St. Louis-area playwrights. The “Africans to Americans: 400 Years of History” event will chronicle the stories of Africans, who first arrived to America as slaves in 1619 to present day. This is the 17th 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 and beyond.

Residents of all ages attending the free celebration on May 4 will be able to watch three historical plays, as shown through the lens of three different playwrights; each focused on a different timeframe between 1619 and 2019. Angela da Silva, Gregory S. Carr and Mariah L. Richardson have written these plays for local actors, musicians and storytellers to bring to life through poetry, music and reenactments. The event will also feature music, games for children, a gospel choir competition sponsored by Praise 95.1 radio, as well as food, drinks, and artisan goods/crafts for purchase.

“This year is a milestone of black history that must be elevated and celebrated,” says Angela da Silva, Adjunct Professor at Lindenwood University, director of the National Black Tourism Network, historical reenactor director, and Mary Meachum event manager. “It’s important for all of us to not only recognize 400 years of hardship and sacrifice but also honor the incredible contributions black people have made to this country since 1619.”

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 (28 East Grand St. Louis, Missouri 63147). 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.

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, St. Charles County Parks and the Historic Daniel Boone Home, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Division of Tourism,. For more information, visit www.MaryMeachum.org.

Area Residents Invited to Free Ancestry Workshop at St. Louis Central Library Sat. April 27

Panel of experts will offer strategies and inspiration for people of color to trace their ancestry in America

As part of the Africans to Americans: 400 Years of History event, the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration and St. Louis Public Library’s Genealogy Room are co-hosting a free workshop to help people of color trace their ancestry in America. Typical genealogical research strategies often fail when applied to enslaved African Americans. Area residents can learn the value of tracing one’s family history and how to get started from a panel of experts. The event will be held from 10:30- 5-:00 pm at the St. Louis Central Library Auditorium (lower level) located at 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis 63103.

Dr. Gina Paige, National Expert and found of African Ancestry will give the keynote address. The Ancestry Workshop schedule and speaker lineup is as follows:

Auditorium Lobby for Public Consults

  • 10:30 – 12:30 Open for Public Consultations
    Area residents can bring DNA results or family tree for consultation with Association of African Ancestored Researchers & the St. Louis Public Library’s Genealogy Room.
  • Auditorium for Speaker Event
    12:35 Introduction of Speakers – All Speakers on stage
  • 12:40 Connie Eller, “Walk the Dirt”- Learn more about the value of tracing family history and visiting the places where ancestors lived from past to present.
  • 1:10 Christopher Nordmann, “Locating Your Slave Ancestor’s Owner: A Case Study”- Trace an African American family in freedom back to slavery from Missouri to Kentucky to Virginia using a variety of records.
  • 1:40 LaDonna Garner, “Recording Families is Recording Local History”- Family groupings form neighborhoods, and neighborhoods shape into communities. Learn why it is important to preserve the artifacts of these communities to maintain a blueprint of local history.
  • 2:10 Daniel Lilienkamp, “Manuscript Collections: A Tool for Finding Your Enslaved African American Ancestors”- Learn why typical U.S. genealogical research strategies often fail when applied to enslaved African Americans and how to begin researching slave owning families’ detailed plantation records to trace ancestry. (Followed by question and answers.)
  • 3:30 Keynote Address – Dr. Gina Paige, founder of African Ancestry
  • 4:30: Michael Butler DNA Reveal (St. Louis City recorder of Deeds) Dr. Paige will take audience questions following the reveal of the ancestry results of a St. Louis personage.

The Ancestry Workshop is free. For updates follow the event on Facebook here. To learn more about Dr. Gina Paige and African Ancestry visit http://www.africanancestry.com/home/