News from City Hall
City Communications Office
City of Kansas City, Mo.
CONTACT: City Communications Office, 816-513-1349
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 10, 2010
Dedication honors African Americans who escaped slavery
A groundbreaking for the Freedom Trail and a dedication ceremony for the Freedom Mall were held on July 10.
The Freedom Trail is a bi-state project, which begins in the Strawberry Hill area of Kansas City, Kan. before crossing over the Kansas River into Missouri.
The Freedom Trail is a section of the Riverfront Heritage Trail, a fully accessible bike and pedestrian trail hub of the metropolitan trail system. It links communities, parks, destinations, historic sites, and public artworks. It begins on the riverfront just east of the Paseo Bridge and winds its way west through the oldest and most historic parts of bi-state Kansas City. The entire trail is designed to follow the earliest and most historic parts of this region.
Housed in the west bottoms, the Freedom Mall is the newest point of interest on the trail.
The only monument in the state of Missouri celebrating African Americans who escaped slavery, the Freedom Mall commemorates the years immediately preceding and during the Civil War when many slaves passed this point as they sought freedom in the new “Free State” of Kansas. To reach Kansas, they had to face the hurdle of the last few miles of the rugged river bottoms. For those escaping from north of the river, crossing the river was even more dangerous, as slaves were intentionally not taught to swim.
“I wish that I had known these people,” said Darby Trotter, president and CEO of the Kansas City River Trails, Inc. “To risk so much for freedom, they were true American heroes.”
The Freedom Mall displays four sculptures designed by local artist Ed Hogan. The sculptures depict a slave family as they attempt to escape into Kansas. The sculptures were previously displayed on a wall inside the Faultless Starch building.
Trotter suggested taking the sculptures off of the wall and moving them to their new home at the Freedom Mall. Here, observers are able to get a more dynamic, three-dimensional view of the work.
The sculptures are accompanied by four interpretive signs, where visitors will are to read the account of African Americans who sought freedom from slavery.
“We have high expectations for this trailhead,” said Kimiko Gilmore, assistant to the city manager and Freedom Mall Task Force, “and what it means to the heritage not only of a African-Americans but to the entire community of the Kansas city metro area.”
Residents and visitors are encouraged to visit the Freedom Mall and the many other historical cultural sites on the Riverfront Heritage Trail System. Learn more about Kansas City’s past communities by visiting the KC River Trails website.
Media inquiries should be directed to Kimiko Gilmore, City Manager’s Office, 816-513-1364 (office), 816-516-2277 (cell) or Kimiko_Gilmore@kcmo.org.