Nance’s legacy personified with influential Black women in office

This is our final installment into the history of Nance Legins-Costley and Central Illinos’ ties to the original Juneteenth Holiday
It takes one person to make history for others.
Published: Jun. 19, 2023 at 6:20 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - We close out our coverage of Nance Legins-Costley.

Monday is celebrated as a day of Freedom and thanks to those who made a way for People of Color to break the chains of slavery and then break glass ceilings.

“I am the first woman and the first person of color in my position,” and Peoria County Supervisor LaTrina Leary is not the only one.

Peoria mayor Rita Ali says,”The fact that I’m the first woman and first black person to become mayor of Peoria is very meaningful to me. It means that I won’t be the last. It means that I broke that glass ceiling with the help of many people in Peoria. Women and people of color will become mayor again beyond my legacy here.”

Thanks to women in history like Nance Legins-Costley who started her fight for freedom when she was barely a teenager, women like Mayor Ali, State Representative and House Leader Jehan Gordon Booth, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, and Peoria Township Supervisor LaTrina Leary are breaking barriers today.

Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young, Peoria City Council member said, ”This is a story is of a 13-year-old. When we think about a 13-year-old having the courage to challenge and challenge for change. That challenge has not gone unnoticed. Think of pride. Think of freedom. Think of remembrance but think of change and think of growth.”

Leary says,”To know that where I grew up is just a few feet from one of the first black woman to be emancipated from slavery right in the same area where I grew up is where her remains are is truly, truly amazing.”

Denise Jackson, District 1 Peoria City Council member says,”We all share in this rich legacy. I’m just proud that we in Peoria are a part of it.”

Illinois has a rich history of Black Women becoming influential and holding leadership positions, like Juliana Stratton, the first African-American woman to hold the Lieutenant Governor position.

She says it’s the women who came before her who made her role possible and stresses the importance that representation matters.

”People like Nance, who was formally enslaved and really had an influence on President Lincoln to make sure that he would come to the mindset that people should be free, I think it’s an example that representation does matter. And whether we look back in history with people like Nance or we look at those like leader Jehan Gordon-Booth or Mayor Rita Ali or people like myself, our voices matter and our voices deserve to be at the table where decisions are made.”

There are so many more women in Illinois who are making history today, like the former Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot and Peoria’s own Jehan Gordon-Booth who serves as the Illinois House of Representatives’ chief budgeteer negotiating the state’s $50 billion dollar annual spending plan.

What these women share is living the vision Nance Legins-Costley planted in the 1830′s when she started her decade-long court battle for her freedom, through the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the full realization of it in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865.