Nance Legins-Costley

Portrait by Preston Jackson

Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) was the first enslaved person to be legally freed in the United States — twenty years before the start of the American Civil War. As a teenager, she and her sister were publicly auctioned to help pay off her enslaver’s debt, the only such auction ever recorded in the state of Illinois. But she refused to go, and instead filed a lawsuit to secure her freedom. Her courageous fight lasted nearly 15 years before attorney Abraham Lincoln successfully argued her case in front of the Illinois Supreme Court. This decision pushed Lincoln to take a bolder anti-slavery stance and eventually led to the emancipation of four million Black Americans from enslavement.

About the Mural Artist

Preston Jackson creates bronze figurative work, monumental bronze and steel sculpture as well as two-dimensional work. Preston’s work centers on where we have been and where we are going, both in an historical and a philosophical sense. 

Preston is professor emeritus at The School of the Art Institute. He was recently awarded a Regional Emmy for hosting “Legacy in Bronze,” a television show featuring his Julieanne’s Garden sculptures, and was named a 1998 Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. In 2018 he was chosen as number 6 of the 10 Top Illinois Artists and Architects of all time, the highest ranked living person on the list. Website:

About the Augmented Reality Performing Artist

Juanita R. Williams is a native of Peoria, Illinois.  She is one of 13 children and the daughter of a Pastor. She is a licensed minister, singer, actress and songwriter. She released an EP “Expected Glory” in 2017. Her passion for God, serving God’s people, music, and the arts have ignited a passion that requires Juanita to now share the ministry God has given her through writing. Fulfilling her God-given assignment, she wrote her first book, “Finding Purpose After Sexual Abuse and Trauma, Life Beyond Pain and Finding My True Identity in God” to bring healing and hope to the broken. Juanita also published “Pen to Published, Easy Guide to Write and Publish Your Book” and the companion workbook to “Finding Purpose After Sexual Abuse and Trauma.”