The 2023 Tazewell County Juneteenth Celebration will take place June 17th at 10 am at the Pocket Park at 411 Court Street in Downtown Pekin. This year's Juneteeth Celebration will center on the dedication of the new Nance Legins-Costley and William Costley Memorial at the entrance of the Pocket Park together with the associated Illinois State Historical Markers. We are proud to announce that Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White and Carl Adams will headline the speakers for this event.
Nance Legins-Costley and her son William Costley are both former residents of Pekin, Illinois, and are both internationally recognized as the first enslaved women and man to be emancipated by then a young attorney Abraham Lincoln through legal proceedings of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841. William Costley would join the Union Army during the Civil War and he was present at the first Juneteenth Celebration in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 as the Union Army liberated the last stronghold of slavery within the United States, an event that is now a Federal and State Holiday.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court on May 10, 2022, following a career as an Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court and Fourth District Appellate Court. Born in Decatur, Illinois, she holds the distinction of being the first African American Women on the Illinois Supreme Court as well as previously serving as the first African American to serve on the Fourth District Appellate Court.
Maryland resident Carl Adams was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, and has been a lifelong fan of Abraham Lincoln. In 2016 he wrote and published "Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln" which quickly gained national acclaim for the research and documentation of this national historical subject.
Last year National Media Headlines carried story of Nance Costley, highlighting the fact that her gravesite in Peoria had been destroyed to make way for the expansion of Adams Street and the growth of the City of Peoria, Illinois. The media coverage noted that no memorial exist noting the life of Nance Costley and no memorial for William Costley within the State of Illinois.
Now, with this new stone memorial and official State of Illinois Historical Markers in Downtown Pekin, as well as a soon to be completed separate project memorial at the former Moffitt Cemetery in the southside of Peoria, the historic life of Nance Costley and her son William Costley will be memorialized for eternity. We invite the public to join us for this free public celebration. Media coverage of this historic event is welcome and would be appreciated.
This event is being organized by Tazewell County Clerk John C. Ackerman, the City of Pekin, the Pekin Chamber of Commerce, the Pekin Main Street Organization, the Dirksen Congressional Center, YWCA Coalition for Equality, Pekin historian Jared Olar, and the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. More details will be announced concerning this event as we get closer to the date.