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In 1847, Missouri banned education for black people.

Posted by Walter Gido on

In 1847, Missouri banned education for black people.
John Berry Meachum went ahead and equipped a steamboat with a library, desks, chairs and opened a 'Floating Freedom School'. John Berry Meachum was born into slavery in Virginia in 1789 but by the age of 21 he had earned enough money doing carpentry work to purchase his own freedom and then his father’s. Meachum was a married man, but before he could save up enough to buy his wife’s freedom she was moved to St. Louis. He followed her here and eventually managed to purchase her freedom as well.
While he was here in St. Louis Meachum met a white Baptist minister named John Mason Peck, who asked for his help in creating a worship space for black people. Together they organized a Sunday school and religious services for slaves and free black people in the area, and in 1825, having been ordained a Baptist Minister himself, Meachum founded and became the pastor of First African Baptist Church, which still exists today albeit in a different location.
Through the Church, Meachum and Peck also offered secular education to black St. Louisans. Up to 300 people received schooling through First African Baptist Church, which charged a monthly tuition fee of one dollar but never turned anyone away for being unable to pay. Unfortunately this was right around the time that St. Louis enacted an ordinance banning the education of free black people. Meachum was forced to disband the Candle Tallow School but later, he outfitted a steamboat with a library, desks, and chairs and opened the Floating Freedom School in the middle of the Mississippi, outside the reach of Missouri officials.

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