2020 Inductees and Keynote Speaker
The African American Hall of Fame will honor the 2020 inductees as part of the 32nd Annual Red, Black, and Green Ball celebration on Saturday, February 29, 2020, 5:45 p.m. at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. This is the premier event for recognizing contributions to African American History and advancement through service and/or leadership within our community and beyond. In addition, African American graduating scholars from Peoria District 150, Quest, and Bloomington / Normal will be awarded scholarships that are supported by various organizations, companies, and individuals from Peoria and Bloomington/Normal.
Sharon Harvey Davis, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Ameren Corporation, will deliver the keynote address: “Building a Legacy of Success.”
Davis is the first Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Ameren and is responsible for diversity training, Employee Resource Groups, community partnerships, diversity communications, and the Corporate Diversity Council. Ameren’s diversity programs have received several awards, including the number one ranking on the Diversity Inc. Top Utility Company Awards for the past four years and was named the number one Regional Company in 2018.
The women and men who have been selected for induction are individuals that have carved their destiny by taking advantage of opportunities and choosing to have their accomplishments reflect their dedication to serving the community. These stalwart visionaries of hope and action will have their photographs and biographies installed on the Wall of Fame and kiosk in the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The awards will be engraved on the plaques that permanently reside at the African American Hall of Fame Museum in Proctor Center.
Nance Legins-Costly (1813-1873) and her biographer Carl Adams – Civil Rights Award
Nance Legins-Cromwell became the only African American servant whose freedom cause was appealed three times in the Illinois Supreme Court. Nance lived along the Pekin – Peoria, IL road. She earned a place in US history as the first slave freed by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln agreed to work as her advocate and used the words of his favorite founding father, Thomas Jefferson, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist…” in Illinois, the territory or the state. Lincoln won the court decision in Nance v Howard 1828, and Nance was freed after fifteen years of appeals.
Carl Adams, the biographer for “Nance” was raised in Alton, IL. He started writing journalism in high school during the Civil Rights movement and reported news for NPR radio at Southern Illinois University. He came to Peoria after graduating from SIU and worked on TV news, Channel 19. In the spring of 1993, he read about an unknown Black woman, “…a Negro girl name Nance” a slave from Tazewell county. His curiosity led to the revelations of “The Trials (and tribulations) of Mrs. Nance Legins-Costley. He now resides in Bethesda, MD, and is the author of Nance: a story by Carl Adams.
Sherry K. Cannon – Geraldine Mitchell Community Service Award
Sherry Cannon is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is originally from Hannibal. MO, but has made Peoria her home for the past 47-years. After 34-years, she retired from AT&T in 2009. Currently, she works part-time with Peoria Park District ELITE Youth Outreach Program as Program Coordinator. ELITE was founded and is still run by her nephew Carl Cannon.
Sherry currently serves as secretary for the Peoria NAACP Branch and Vice President Southside Mission Board. She was recently appointed to the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Human Resources in Peoria. She is the founder of Hope Renewed Youth Conference, Inc., whose goal is to diversify the Peoria Public School system and Peoria Police Dept. by providing scholarships to students of color.
In 2019 Sherry was honored at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Alumnae Chapter Legends Luncheon. She was one of WEEK-TV’s 2018 “25 Women in Leadership,” and in 2018 received the Doer of the Deeds, Esther Golar Award for Political Leadership from Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth.
Ronda Guyton – Law Enforcement Award
Mrs. Ronda Y. Guyton, Undersheriff of the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, is the first African American woman to hold the office of Undersheriff since the inception in 1825. Mrs. Guyton has 25 years of law enforcement experience. She has served in many positions within the Sheriff’s office, including corrections, Deputy Sheriff, investigations, community policing and extradition. She served as a specialist in the United States Army Reserve from 1991-1999.
Mrs. Guyton is committed to women’s health, community, and education. She gives of her talents, time and resources to many different organizations throughout the Central Illinois area such as Shaun Livingston Foundation, It Takes A Village, Susan G Komen Circle of Promise and Y.E.S. Youth Empowerment Summit founded by David Booth to name a few. She holds a Board of Directors seat with many organizations such as the American Red Cross, Greater Peoria Family YMCA, African American Hall of Fame Museum, and the University of Illinois at Springfield Campus Alumni Advisory Board. She is a member of NOBLE, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Mrs. Guyton founded Living to Serve Foundation, Inc. after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. The foundation has an annual Sister’s Rock Mammogram-A-Thon whose mission is to increase awareness of women’s health by providing education, resources and programming.
She is on the scholarship committee for the Livingston Legacy Scholarship committee and the owner of Ronda Guyton Travel agency.
She and her husband Graylin reside in the Peoria area and have four sons and one grandson, Robert, Marcus, Nicholous, Isaac and Jaytrell.
Eva Jones – Community Activist Award
Eva Jones was the first African-American elected to both the Bloomington District 87 Board of Education and the Bloomington City Council. Bloomington Public Schools was established in 1857. Racial integration occurred in 1872 after an Illinois Supreme Court decision. A white woman was first elected to the board in 1874. Jones was elected to the board almost 100 years later in 1971.
Jones took the seat following a year of racial tensions at Bloomington High School and labor tensions between teachers and administrators. She is credited with helping to negotiate peace in both areas. She was re-elected to a second term and served as board president in 1977. In 1979, she made history again, becoming the first African-American elected to Bloomington City Council.
Annie Turnbo Malone – Distinguished Business Award
Annie Turnbo Malone Wonderful Hair Grower,” and later Poro products and Poro College, revolutionized Black hair care in the early 1900s. By many accounts, Malone was a young girl living in Peoria when she began experimenting with recipes to remedy hair loss and scalp problems. Her inventions eventually led to a multimillion-dollar beauty culture empire that helped launch the modern Black-owned hair-care industry. Malone’s Poro College trained and employed thousands of African-American women. She donated generously to Black colleges and civic organizations. Her legacy lives on in St. Louis, where the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center replaced the old St. Louis Colored Orphan’s Home and the annual Annie Malone May Day Parade is the second oldest African-American parade in the country.
James (Agbara) Bryson, great-nephew of Annie Malone, will accept the posthumous award.
The Board of Directors for the African American Hall of Fame encourages the greater Peoria and Bloomington/Normal communities to join us at the Red, Black and Green Ball on Saturday, February 29, 2020, 5:45 p.m. at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The formal event includes the induction of community leaders into the Hall of Fame and the presentation of scholarships to scholars from Peoria District 150, Quest Community, and Bloomington Normal Schools. For information about the ball or to purchase tickets for $60 each, please call the museum at (309) 673-2206 or (309) 360-0990.