“From the River to the Jailhouse” tells the stories of Lucy Delaney, Mary and John Meachum and Francis McIntosh. Throughout this documentary you learn more about the lives of these individuals, their importance to St. Louis civil rights and how the Mississippi River and the jailhouse affected their lives.
It dives into Lucy’s life and how her freedom suit was one of 300 freedom suits within St. Louis. It also touches on her narrative From Darkness Cometh the Light, which is the only first-person narrative from the perspective of an enslaved plaintiff making it an invaluable resource. “From the River to the Jailhouse” also discusses the Floating Freedom School, a school for black children that Mary and John Berry Meachum founded so black children could become educated in St. Louis in a time where that education was deemed unnecessary by most. Francis McIntosh’s story is also discussed along with his “non-consensual martyrdom.”
This documentary has gone through several versions with multiple visions and potential outcomes. We finally landed on something all three of us are proud of. It is a commemorative piece documenting the lives, struggles and fights for freedom that Lucy, Mary, John and Francis went through and how those stories are remembered now.
We used a poetic style to navigate through this film and the stories of those involved. We thought using striking images, poetic language and symbolism throughout the film would help provide visual and auditory interest. Rosie Willis also provided some excellent oral histories for Lucy Delaney and Mary Meachum, that provide a more authentic perspective. A vigil that was held for Francis McIntosh provides an excellent commemorative narrative, as well. We remember these individuals, what they did for antebellum St. Louis civil rights and the impact their stories have had. We found that presenting this information to the public in a commemorative fashion was a great way to inform them of their stories and to help them remember the social issues St. Louis has struggled with in the past but also continues to struggle with in some capacity today.
A special thank you to Robert Foster and Katie Lade for collaborating with me on this project.