State & National Recognitions

Charles Stanley, ISHS Board Member and Markers Committee Chairman

Click on the arrow below to listen to the remarks. Audio courtesy of WCBU-FM 89.9. A transcript is below the photo. All photos courtesy of the City of Peoria.

Hey, everybody. My name’s Chuck Stanley. I’m here from the Illinois State Historical Society to talk to you just for a few minutes about our marker program. The marker program is designed to recognize state sites of national and statewide significance. Our goal is to increase public awareness and appreciation of our state’s historical legacy. Since 1934, the society has commemorated over 400 sites describing persons, events, and other subjects important to Illinois cultural history or heritage. The society relies on individuals who are passionate about their local history and are willing to help in the placement of markers, often covering historically significant subjects that might otherwise remain obscure. And certainly that is the case here.

Toward that goal, the Historical Society has worked with the Pomeroy Foundation of Syracuse, New York. In 2006, the Pomeroy Foundation established its first marker program to help educate the public, encourage pride of place, and promote historic tourism. Since then, it has awarded more than 2,000 grants for roadside markers and plaques nationwide. Two years ago, the Pomeroy Foundation partnered with the Illinois State Historical Society to fund 25 new historical markers here in Illinois. The grant offers matching funds to communities and historical organizations that have identified a historical event, a person, or location of significance to Illinois’ narrative that has been previously overlooked, overshadowed, marginalized, or simply lost. The program recognizes, there are many heroes to get recognized for their enduring contributions to society, for their work towards civil rights, equality, and to a more just and perfect Union. But there are some who get less recognition, despite having put their indelible mark on our state’s history.

Such an unsung hero of black history, of course, is Nancy Legins-Costley, the Illinois woman who is known as the first slave freed by Abraham Lincoln. But her story goes far beyond that narrative. She is not just part of Lincoln’s story, but instead fought a brave fight of her own, having her case heard by the Illinois Supreme Court three times before finally winning her freedom in 1841, 20 years before the outbreak of the Civil War.

To all those who have contributed to this effort in any way, including your attendance here, the Illinois State Historical Society expresses its sincere appreciation. Thank you.