nanceUnbeknownst to many, Central Illinois has quite a bit of history tied to Juneteenth.

Peoria-based historians discovered the first slaves to be emancipated by Abraham Lincoln, who was an attorney at the time, was Nance Legins-Costley, a woman from Pekin, Illinois, and her infant son William “Bill” Costley.

Nance was freed on July 23, 1841, as a result of the Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell. This ruling by Justice Sidney Breese was extremely significant in our state’s history for declaring that Illinois was a free state where slavery was illegal, causing other states to follow.

The Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued by then-President Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, declared that all enslaved people in the Confederate states were free. However, Texas was not under Union control at the time, so the Emancipation Proclamation did not take effect there until June 19, 1865, when federal troops under the command of Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and announced that all enslaved people in the state were free. Nance’s son Bill was among Union troops on that day.

This day became an unofficial Independence Day for the Black community in America and is now celebrated as Juneteenth, a federal holiday in the United States.

Here in Illinois, many of the celebrations included reading the Emancipation Proclamation and telling harrowing stories of the past generations’ journey to freedom.

In particular, throughout the 1990s, Decatur, Illinois had an annual Juneteenth celebration organized by the African-American Cultural & Genealogical Society of Illinois where they crowned a Mr. and Mrs. Juneteenth.

In Chicago, a local African-American radio station WVON hosted a celebration at Mandrake Park near the Bronzeville neighborhood with former Alderman Dorothy Tillman in 2002, causing other informal celebrations to pop up at Rosenblum Park. In this same year Mayor Richard J. Daley acknowledged the holiday in a city council meeting and urged all Chicagoans to celebrate.

Since then, Juneteenth was commemorated in Illinois in 2003, and became a state and federal holiday in 2021. This day is a time to celebrate and acknowledge Black lives, stories, and experiences and this country's painful history of injustice.

If you would like to attend any local Illinois Juneteenth events, read more here.

Juneteenth FB

Across Illinois there are hundreds of Juneteenth celebrations, commemorating the emancipation of ensalved African Americans, which has been observed for 160 years. Come celebrate the importance of this day in your local community near you! If you would like to learn more about Illinois' history to Juneteenth click here.

Friday, June 16:
Juneteenth Illinois Scholarship Reception
-When: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
-Where: 540 W. Madison St, Chicago

Juneteenth Lake County & The African American Museum at The England Manor Juneteenth Celebration
-When: 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
-Where: 2400 Dowie Memorial Drive, Zion

Illinois State Museum Art Fair - Noir Art Fair
-When: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
-Where: 501 S Spring St, Springfield

City of Blue Island Juneteenth Resource and Health Fair
-When: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
-Where: John D. Rita Recreation Center - 2805 141 St., Blue Island

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filomawardDocumentaries are a wonderful resource that teach us about topics we may not have thought about otherwise — from crime, food production, scientific discoveries and even tiger kings. Documentaries also promote the sharing of knowledge across the world. One such documentary, “Mussel Grubbing,” was filmed here in Illinois and has received international attention. Director Jason Lindsey won the Best Documentary award for his film at the World Water Film Festival in New York.

Lindsey’s film examines research being done in the upper Sangamon River on freshwater mussels. “Mussel Grubbing” follows the story of a citizen scientist’s discovery of finding a diverse collection of healthy mussels in the Sangamon River basin. The mussels contribute to a healthier river, which in turn improves the well-being of the community. The film’s purpose is to highlight how everyday people in Illinois are supporting science in a way that is vital to the welfare of their local environment. The filmmakers wanted to show that community science projects are for everyone, regardless of their experience with science.

Lindsey’s film was one of only two to open the United Nations 2023 Water Conference. This documentary showcases the importance of not only local art, but also local engagement in science. It combines the beauty of art and filmmaking with the magnificence and practicality of science. We often think of the arts and of science as two separate entities; however Lindsey masterfully combines both in his award-winning documentary.

To learn more about “Mussel Grubbing,” visit the director’s website here.

Chicagoan Dr. Carla Knorowski was an avid Paris traveler and fell in love with the city as a young woman. She has traveled to nearly every city named Paris to connect her love for the city around the world, amounting to nearly 89,000 miles of flying over the years. In her efforts, she has been hailed as a nonprofit leader and scholar and advocate for culture, education and the arts. However, five years ago marked an absolute shock to her and everyone across the globe.

In April 2019 when the Notre Dame Cathedral had endured fifteen hours under flames, Knorowski was in completely devastated. Being a prolific fundraiser, she put together an event to raise awareness and restoration funds for the iconic cathedral to expedite the construction and ensure that it would keep its classic French Gothic architecture in place. With the success of the event she raised a total of $500,000.

The event she created was a global virtual fundraising event whose participants included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actress Glenn Close, and Notre-Dame Cathedral’s titular organist Olivier Latry as well as others. Her efforts toward its reconstruction promoted her to the rank of Officer in its National Order of Merit (L’Ordre National Du Mérite) by the Republic of France, which was officially signed by President Emmanuel Macron. It is the second national Order of France, the first being the Legion of Honor. The Order recognizes distinguished civil or military service. Annually it is awarded to approximately 3,000 French citizens and 300 citizens of foreign nations.

The construction and restoration of Notre Dame was in the process of being renovated as it was nearing 850 years old. Luckily, many sculptures had been placed in an alternate location before the fire had begun and a lot of the stained glass was saved with the firefighters help. Thanks to Knorowski and her love for Paris and French culture, Notre Dame is closer to its 2024 reopening date in time for the next Olympics.

Mineral Display Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary ArtYou wouldn’t know it from driving through suburban Oak Brook, but the village is home to the only museum in America dedicated to lapidary art – the art of cutting and polishing precious stones.

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is home to some of the world’s most unique and historic collections of mosaics, jewelry, stone carvings, fossils, dioramas and gemstones. As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Lizzadro Museum has hosted exclusive exhibits from the Smithsonian Institute’s collections. The partnership also facilitates collaboration on educational initiatives and research.

Founded in 1962 by Joseph F. Lizzadro, Sr., an avid lapidary hobbyist and collector, the museum has been building on to his original collection for 60 years. In 2019, the Lizzadro received a donation of several historic pieces from the Oakland County Museum in California – among them, a five-foot-tall jade pagoda that took 10 years to complete and was on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Interestingly, the Museum’s move from Elmhurst to Oak Brook in 2019 enabled them to put the jade statue, titled Altar of the Green Jade Pagoda, on display for the first time. Also included in the collection is a nephrite jade imperial altar set from the Ming Dynasty and the Imperial Screen, a cinnabar screen encrusted with jade, amber, ivory, coral and gemstones that was gifted to Emperor Qianlong in 1791 during a visit to Southern China.

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