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

Read more ...

readingChicago high school athletes are taking time out of their busy school and sporting schedule to help mentor and promote a love of reading in younger students. They have been giving their time and energy to encourage elementary school students in Englewood to read.

One such student athlete read “Llama Llama Red Pajama” to kindergarten students in Englewood on Wednesday, April 12. The students sat and listened eagerly to the story, while also enjoying a pizza party. This visit was just one in a regular series of commitment from high school athletes to encourage younger students to read.

These mentors are already seeing great results in their young pupils. Teachers say it is very beneficial for the younger students to hear from and look up to the older kids. At Dulles Elementary, many teachers say their students were struggling with their reading before the visits, and now many of them are reading above their grade level. The younger classes compete to have the most reading minutes every month in order to win a prize, such as the pizza party in the kindergarten class.

Back in October, the high school students donated around 3,000 books to Dulles Elementary and each classroom now has their own mini library of books for students to check out and bring home. Reading opens up new worlds to young children, and their older mentors are inspiring a love of learning and reading!

ILIARCHERYThe National Archery in the Schools Program, aimed at improving educational performance among students in grades 4 – 12 through archery, had its Illinois State Tournament March 25 and 26.

Champaign Centennial High School won first place at the tournament, where the team scored 3,400 during the two days.

Champaign Central High School scored 3,390 points putting them in second place and East Dubuque High School finished in third with 3,329.

Edison Middle School in Champaign won first place in the middle school division, scoring 3,332. Jefferson Middle School in Champaign took second place with a score of 3,297 and East Dubuque students took third with a score of 3,250.

In the elementary school division, East Dubuque won first place, scoring 2,844. Next Generation School in Champaign finished second with a score of 2,798 and Armstrong-Potomac in Vermilion County finished third with 2,769.

First place for individual performance was awarded to Shayna Sigh from Champaign Central with a score of 293. Westin Ballantine from East Dubuque High School was the top male score with 289.

The NASP Illinois State Tournament was hosted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at Champaign Centennial High School this year. Top finishers qualified for the NASP U.S. Eastern Nationals will be held May 11-13 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Congratulations to all of our student athletes. For the full Illinois State Tournament results, visit the NASP website at

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.