New Tazewell County Court House

One of the rare contemporary mentions of Nance outside of official court filings is found in a promotional booklet from 1916 prepared for the Dedication of the new courthouse in Tazewell County (where Nance spent most of her life).

While it is sadly not a full interview, the positive terms used suggest that Nance's story was well-known to everyone in the community, and that she had perhaps achieved some level of celebrity during her lifetime.

"The first negro to reach 'Town Site', or Tazewell county, was known as 'Black Nance,' who came as a slave, leased to Major Cromwell, to satisfy a debt. This occurred about 1829. She was a good soul, ever willing to help on all festal occasions. All her children were 'born in freedom,' at Pekin. As the years rolled by, she gained distinction by being the first black slave freed by the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. This case came before the courts and was won by Lincoln when he was known as 'Honest Old Abe.'"


Cover from 1916 promotional brochure

Cover from 1916 promotional brochure

More about Nance Legins-Costley, and Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln.