Eda Hickam was the slave of Joseph Hickam of Cooper County. She wasn’t freed until his death, 24 years after other Missouri slaves were emancipated in January 1865.

Cooper County resident Cydney Mayfield wants to find a way recognize Eda Hickam and her struggle for freedom and reparations.

Mayfield announced June 20 at the Unity in the Park event that she would like to form a coalition to work toward a goal of having a statue created in Eda Hickam’s honor. A couple of people have reached out, but the coalition has not yet met in-person due to COVID-19 concerns.

"I was planning to try and hold a coalition in conjunction with another organization’s public meeting, but given the COVID-19 restrictions on spacing, it hasn’t happened," Mayfield said.

Mayfield also is the only person doing research, so far, on weekends the Cooper County Historical Society is open. She is the assistant prosecuting attorney for Saline County, city attorney for Centralia and treasurer of the Missouri Democratic Party, so she can only dedicate weekends for research.

"I’m trying to locate where Mr. Hickam’s farm was and start to see if we can’t locate maybe individuals that were related to Joseph Hickam or were related to Eda," Mayfield said.

Her next step is to look at land records and probate court records in the Cooper County Recorder’s office.

"My understanding is [the probate records] are in an old metal container," Mayfield said. "Part of this means either taking time off from work or eventually getting someone else involved who can go visit the recorder of deeds during office hours."

She initially suggested the Cooper County Courthouse as the statue location at the Unity event, but has received pushback on that idea from the Black community. Race Matters, Friends, a Columbia-based racial equity advocacy group, reached out to Mayfield to relay community concerns.

"I want to take those concerns into consideration," she said. "They don’t want a memorial in or around the courthouse. They feel asking people to come to the courthouse where law enforcement and other cases that have historically been against Black people, they don’t want that tied to the courthouse."

While Boonville’s Black community appreciates Mayfield for bringing Eda Hickam’s story to light, they are worried erecting a memorial to a woman enslaved well past emancipation is not an appropriate monument. They want to know why a tragedy should be memorialized, Mayfield said.

"For me it’s about the fight for her freedom and the fact this injustice was allowed to endure for 24 years after the emancipation of slaves," she said. "I am still trying to verify whether or not she is considered the last slave freed."

Mayfield’s research found that Eda Hickam was born a slave and would have been freed at age 23 in 1865, but was not until she was 47. She then fought in the Cooper County Probate Court for $1,400 in reparations from the Hickam family, ultimately receiving $700. The value of that decision is not known in today’s dollars since consumer price indexes do not go back that far.

"We haven’t gotten as far as I would like. I still need to do some historically searching because the day of the Unity gathering was the same day I learned about [Eda Hickam]," Mayfield said.

People are going to want all the facts, she said. Research from the historical society is serving as the base information as Mayfield prepares to open up her research net. She wants to work with local individuals and with Civil War and emancipation scholars.

"I want the Black community to be on board with this as well," Mayfield said. "I want to make sure this is an appropriate thing from their perspective to memorialize."

The ideal situation for Mayfield would be to have fully accessible, in-person meetings monthly.

"We need to have discussions on who will be doing what," she said.

This includes someone determining a memorial location, deciding on a design because there eventually will be a significant fundraising initiative.

"You can’t honor history if you don’t know the history, so I am making sure I have all of the information together when I get everyone in the coalition together," Mayfield said.