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.'"
More about Nance Legins-Costley, and Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln.
- Timeline of events that shaped Nance's case, and slavery in Illinois.
- Nance Genealogy.
- Rare contemporary mention of Nance.
- Sample content from Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln.
- Contemporary opinions of Lincoln and the case that won Nance her freedom.
- Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society article by the author.
- Abraham Lincoln Association article by the author.