Culture/History
4:04 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Annual Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Event Celebrates 150th Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary

The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, will be turned into a Civil War training camp tomorrow at the 11th annual Freedom Crossing Event Celebration.

Themed around the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, visitors can observe and participate in and a recreation of daily life of individuals back in the 1860s, and the experiences of newly emancipated slaves during that time. The free event will feature a Freedman’s School, calvary units with horses, and a 19th century medicine show.  The day’s festivities will also  include a reenactment of the 1855 freedom crossing from Missouri facilitated by free woman Mary Meachum.

Coordinator Angela da Silva feels that the event will help to shed more light on a part of obscure black history.

“The Civil War in the black community has just disappeared out of memory, and the fact that St. Louis played such a major role in that – I think the public just needs to know, and I think they would be able to take pride in it if they knew it,” da Silva says.

During the war, Benton Barracks, now the site of Fairground Park in North St. Louis, was the biggest induction and recruitment site for African Americans, and was, at its height, occupied by 24,000 recruits.

da Silva, who is also an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University, hopes others will be able to have a better understanding of the soldiers’ history and legacy.

“What we’re attempting to create is that arc between the enslaved blacks and citizen soldier, and how they went forward and the things that were possible for them to be able to come out of slavery and go directly in to society,” da Silva says.

The grounds will open at 11 a.m. Additional festivities includes political speeches given by Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln re-enactors, a fashion show, and a barn dance at the end of the day.

Follow Erin  Williams on Twitter: @STLPR_Erin