PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — Community leaders gathered at Woodrow Cemetery in Pekin to celebrate Juneteenth a day early, Friday, June 18.
Juneteenth, now recognized as a national and state holiday, is African American Emancipation Day, celebrating the liberation of enslaved people in the United States of America in 1865.
A first-time event for Tazewell County, community and state leaders honored John Sommers, Samuel Woodrow, Hugh Woodrow, and William Woodrow for their dedication to helping 800 enslaved people through the Underground Railroad across Central Illinois.
President of the Peoria Branch N.A.A.C.P., Marvin Hightower, said educational events like these are the most important tools in making strides towards change and equity.
“It’s so important to teach our younger generations, as well as those who didn’t know, the importance of what’s going on, and how significant Tazewell County has played a big part in helping free individuals,” Hightower said.
To commemorate the abolitionists’ heroic actions, leaders at the event planted honorary signs reading “xx” next to each of their graves.