Pekin Public Library Juneteenth program links

Shown here is an old printed copy of the first four of Major Gen. Gordon Granger’s five “General Orders” implementing martial law in Texas following Texas’ surrender after the end of the Civil War. General Order No. 3, issued 19 June 1865, in Galveston, Texas, proclaimed “all slaves are free” and that they had “absolute equality” with their former owners. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For those who were unable to attend Pekin’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration at the Pekin Public Library that was co-sponsored earlier this month by the Pekin YWCA Coalition for Equality along with the library, below is a link to the program presented by Jared Olar, the library’s local history specialist, telling the stories of four Pekin men — Pvt. William Henry Costley, Cpl. William Henry Ashby, Sgt. Marshall Ashby, and Cpl. Nathan Ashby — who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War and were eyewitnesses of the first Juneteenth in 1865. (Besides Pekin’s four Juneteenth eyewitnesses, a fifth Tazewell County volunteer for the Colored Troops, Thomas Marcellus Tumbleson of Elm Grove Township, was also present at the first Juneteenth.)

Before the Juneteenth program, Jared Olar was interviewed by WCBU Peoria Public Radio News Director Tim Shelley about the same subject. Quotes from that interview are included in the following WCBU news report at their website. Twenty-minutes of the interview aired on WCBU during the local news half-hour on Friday at 6 p.m. (the eve of Juneteenth) in the middle of the “All Things Considered” broadcast. Audio of the entire 45-minute interview is linked on the WCBU website immediately below this article:

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Pekin Public Library spotlights 125+ years of history at ‘Business After Hours’

After a hiatus of about a year, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce resumed its popular “Business After Hours” events on Thursday evening, April 8, 2021, when leaders of local business and community life attended a social gathering in the second-floor Community Room of the Pekin Public Library. Pekin Public Library Director Jeff Brooks took the occasion of its hosting “Business After Hours” to display a large number of its mementos and artifacts which illustrated the Pekin Public Library’s vital place in Pekin’s community life reaching back to 1866, when the prominent ladies of Pekin society organized the Ladies Library Association of Pekin, forerunner of the Pekin Public Library. The library’s local historian and researcher on staff, Jared Olar, also spoke for about 25 minutes, giving an overview of the library’s history from 1866 to the present. Throughout the event, a video highlighting the library’s history, prepared by Emily Lambe, public information and programming manager, was played.

“Business After Hours” at the Pekin Public Library is just one of the ways the library has been celebrating the 125th anniversary of the library’s existence (counting from February 1896, when the Pekin Library Association became a department of Pekin city government). Additional events will appear on the library’s program calendar throughout 2021.

Below are photographs from the April 8 “Business After Hours,” all taken by director Jeff Brooks.

Donna the Kangaroo, an orange plastic children’s rocking chair in the shape of a beloved character of an older generation of Australian children’s literature, is well-remembered by Pekinites for her many years in the Pekin Public Library’s Youth Services Department. Donna usually is kept safely in storage these days, but she came out the greet the attendees of the Pekin Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours on the library’s second floor Thursday evening, April 8, 2021. As part of the library’s 125th anniversary celebrations this year, the library will provide opportunities for photographs with Donna at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, and again at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 26.

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