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Mary Meachum

Mary Meachum. Image courtesy of Bellefontaine Cemetery

For the 17th straight year, St. Louis' nationally recognized Underground Railroad site will host an observance of the area's importance in the fight for civil rights.

The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration is set for noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The site is at 28 East Grand Ave. on the Mississippi Greenway's Riverfront Trail.

This year's event, titled "Africans to Americans: 400 Years of History,” will feature a choir competition and historical re-enactments written by STL playwrights Angela da Silva, Gregory S. Carr and Mariah L. Richardson.

"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," said da Silva, the site's event manager.

The site marks the place that abolitionist Meachum, a free woman of color, set out in 1855 for free-state Illinois with nine escaped slaves.

The group made it to the Illinois bank, only to be met by a sheriff and slave owners. Meachum was charged with violating fugitive slave laws, but the charges were later dropped.

After the Civil War, Meachum was president of the Colored Ladies Soldiers Aid Society, which worked with wounded black veterans and taught them to read. She died in 1869 and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

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