Mary Meachum Celebration

Mary Meachum Celebration

Save the Date for the 20th Annual Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration!
Saturday, October 1, 2022 at the Underground Railroad site on the Mississippi Greenway

Interested in being a vendor at this year’s event? Scroll down on this page to register.

Interested in being a volunteer at this year’s event? Click here to register to volunteer.







Who was Mary Meachum?

Mary Meachum (1801–1869) and her husband, Reverend John Berry Meachum, were American abolitionists who dedicated their lives to educating and freeing enslaved people.  As part of Reverend Meachum’s church, he established a school for free and enslaved black students called the “The Candle Tallow School.” After the state of Missouri banned all education for black people in 1847, the Meachum’s moved their classes to a steamboat in the middle of the Mississippi River, which was beyond the reach of Missouri law. He provided the school with a library, desks and chairs, and called it the “Floating Freedom School.”  The Meachum’s home on Fourth Street  in St. Louis was a safe house on the Underground Railroad. They also helped enslaved people escape to Illinois, where slavery was outlawed. Their work involved considerable risk due to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850- a law authorizing the hunting and capture of escaped enslaved people and requirement that they be returned to their enslavers.

Reverend John Berry Meachum grew up enslaved in Virginia and Kentucky before earning enough money to purchase his freedom. Before leaving Kentucky, he met Mary, an enslaved woman who was set to be moved by her enslavers to St. Louis. John followed Mary to St. Louis where he bought her freedom and eventually established the First African Baptist Church, the first black congregation in St. Louis. After John’s death in 1854, Mary Meachum continued their work educating and freeing enslaved people.

What is the significance of the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Site?

On the night of May 21, 1855, in the area that is now part of the Mississippi Greenway:Riverfront Trail north of the Merchant’s bridge, Mary Meachum attempted to help a small group of enslaved people cross the Mississippi River to Illinois where slavery was outlawed. However, enslavers and law enforcement officials caught at least five of the enslaved people and arrested Mary for her participation in the plot. She was charged in criminal court for helping the “fugitives” escape. In 2001, the National Park Service recognized the site as part of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Where is the Mary Meachum Site?

The site is located on the Mississippi Greenway. Several sections of the greenway are currently impacted by construction. To bike or walk to the site, you can park in North Riverfront Park and ride south on the greenway. To drive there, take Highway 70 to Grand Ave: East toward river; North on Hall to Prairie; Right on Prairie to site & parking.

Annual free community event for all ages

Every year, a variety of partners plan and host the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration on the Mississippi Greenway. The theme of the event changes each year and shines a spotlight on important-yet rarely told or not widely known-Black history in St. Louis.

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Interested in being a vendor at the 2022 Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration on October 1, 2022? Register using the form below.

  • What does your booth or presence entail? Are you selling art or food or drink or goods? Are you providing information to the community? Please describe.
  • 2022 EVENT INFO: Saturday, October 1st

    Each vendor/exhibitor must provide your own tent. Each exhibitor receives:
    - 10' x 10' booth space
    - 1 Table
    - 2 Chairs

    So that all exhibitors are successful, independent representatives from the same company are prohibited. If someone from the company you represent has already registered, you will be informed. We will then cancel the registration and refund your money. If you are selling food, please coordinate with the City of St. Louis for requirements.

    1. Setup: Setup on site is 8:30am to 10:30am on Saturday, October 1st, 2022. The grounds open to the public at 11am and the event programming begins at 12pm. The event ends at 5pm, and teardown begins after that. Booths must remain in place until the end of the event. Vehicles will not have access to the site until 5:30pm.

    2. Security: Each exhibitor must take responsibility for the security of all items in their display booth. Do not leave valuable items unattended.

    3. Payment: Payment must be received with this registration in order to hold space. We will NOT hold space without payment. Once your application and payment is received, you will receive a parking permit and vendor credentials.

    4. Terms: By acceptance of this agreement & purchase, the Exhibitor expressly releases Great Rivers Greenway from any and all liability for damage, injury, or loss to any persons or goods which may arise from the rental and occupation of exhibit space.

The 2021 virtual event highlights the stories of Black St. Louisans whose lives were intertwined with Missouri’s journey to statehood and the legalization of slavery in the state. In 1818, Missouri wanted to join the Union as a slave state. A compromise was struck, and the horror of slavery was once again expanded. There was no compromise for enslaved people. Join us to learn about and connect to our community’s past, present, and future. Thank you to the 2021 sponsors Great Rivers Greenway and Missouri Division of Tourism for supporting bringing these important stories to life!

The 2020 event (virtual) focused on the struggles to pass the 15th Amendment giving Black men the right to vote, and the incredible violence that women had to endure for the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment. Check it out here.

Big thanks to our sponsors: