Photo via: Julianna Stratton
On Monday, Juliana Stratton was officially sworn in as the first Black Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. Stratton also became Illinois' third consecutive woman lieutenant governor and the nation's fourth African American woman to hold a lieutenant governorship.
Inserted inside the Bible she used to take the oath of office was Stratton's family history that her grandmother had written for her grandchildren. A part of that history includes Stratton's great-great-grandfather, William Stephens, who was born into slavery.
"On December 3rd, 1818, Illinois became the 21st state. 200 years later, with the DNA of my formerly enslaved great, great grandfather William Stephens as part of my genetic makeup, I am proud to stand before you as our state’s first black Lieutenant Governor," Stratton said during her inauguration speech.
This morning, I was proud to be sworn in as the first African American lieutenant governor in Illinois history. I plan on working tirelessly to ensure that communities across the state have a government that will fight for them. pic.twitter.com/dccpSBmQMq— Juliana Stratton (@JulianaforLG) January 14, 2019
As reported by 25 News, Stratton's great-great-grandfather and his twin brother were freed after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Their former master then gave them land in Mississippi, which they used to rent out properties and build a community.
"These brothers, formerly enslaved, were industrious, and continued to build this community," Stratton shared. "They farmed the land, growing cotton, vegetables and fruit, and tended to livestock and poultry. They helped create every institution their tenants needed to live full lives: a church, a school, a general store, a post office."
Over the summer, Stratton went back to Stephensville, Mississippi, where the same school and church that her ancestors built years ago can still be found.
She said, "My trip to Stephensville, Mississippi, was powerful. It centered me for the work that lies ahead. See, I had to reach back to my past to better understand my future."
We couldn't agree more. Congratulations, Lt. Governor Stratton!