Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, St. Louis, MO
Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, St. Louis, MO

St. Louis,


United States

Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing

This site three miles north of downtown St. Louis, with sweeping views across the Mississippi River, commemorates the events of May 21, 1855, when a group of fugitive enslaved people attempted to cross the river from St. Louis to reach freedom in Illinois. The leader of this group was Mary Meachum, a free woman of color, abolitionist, and widow of Reverend John Berry Meachum. Before the Reverend’ s death in 1854, the Meachums jointly operated a covert school for African Americans (then banned from public education) aboard a steamboat docked in the Mississippi River, and offered their home on Fourth Street, just a few blocks from the riverbank, as an Underground Railroad safehouse. While leading the group across the river on the night of May 21, Mary Meachum and five of her party were caught and arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The location of their departure from St. Louis is marked by the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Site along St. Louis’ Riverfront Trail. In 2001, the site became the first in Missouri to be added to the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. The fifteen-mile, paved Riverfront Trail, first begun in 1967 and now part of the 128-mile Great Rivers Greenway network, runs along the Mississippi River between the Gateway Arch and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. A master plan  implemented in the early 21st century connected the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing with other historic riverfront sites, including Laclede’s Landing and Gateway Arch National Park. A former U.S. Coast Guard Station adjacent to the site is now used as a visitor center and offers visitor amenities. In 2018, muralists from St. Louis Artworks and the Logos School completed a new mural commemorating the site’s history.

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