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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

May 29, 2023

The founding of a town can have interesting stories, behind it The founding of Brooklyn, Illinois,  is one such story.  Legend has it that Brooklyn developed as a Black settlement, an asylum, and within the Underground Railroad system. Just press play to hear the whole story. ———

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Cicely Hunter, Public Historian from the Missouri Historical Society, and here’s history, on eighty-eight-one, KDHX. ———

Stories of agency, courage, strength, and resilience were told as oral history traditions passed down from generation to generation within Black communities. It is through these stories that many forebearers instructed Black Americans about their lineage, life lessons, and mapping a path forward. The history of Brooklyn, Illinois, incorporates this oral tradition. ———

Brooklyn’s story revolves around Priscilla Baltimore, often referred to as Mother Baltimore, who was born into slavery around 1805 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. She was sold off by her enslaver (her biological father) and sold several more times before purchasing her freedom for about $1,100. According to lore, she continued to liberate her family, first her mother and then her second husband, John Tobias Baltimore, by mortgaging her property in St. Louis. ———

Despite the punitive Black codes adopted by Illinois in 1819, which were designed to suppress economic, social, and political power for self-emancipated and free Black individuals, the state was a destination for Black people fleeing Missouri. In 1829, 11 families left Missouri for Illinois with Priscilla and John Baltimore as their leaders. ———

Legend has it that Brooklyn developed as a Black settlement, an asylum, and within the Underground Railroad system. The principles of family and religion were their foundation, and it was through God’s power that they were liberated during the antislavery movement. ———

Priscilla Baltimore died in 1882 and many details about her life as a beloved and revered figure within the community appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Along with John Berry Meachum, Mary Meachum, Moses Dickson, and many other pioneers that paved the way for Black liberation in the previous centuries, it’s important for us to keep the oral history about Priscilla and John Baltimore within St. Louis regional history. ———

For more information about St. Louis Black history, please visit our website Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX. I’m Cicely Hunter and this is eighty-eight-one, KDHX, St. Louis. ———