Barbara Stuart -- 2021 History Maker Honoree
Barbara served for several years as president of the Normal Public Library Board and became the first president of the Friends of the Normal Public Library. She founded seven activist organizations: Young Adult Problems Study Group, The Minority Advocacy Council, the Minority Complaints about Police, The Peaceful Schools Committee, The Rebound Committee, The Alternatives to Jail Committee, and the McLean County Community COMPACT. She also served on the McLean County Board for 17 years as the vice chair of the Justice Committee. She has a firm belief in fairness, as she urged the adoption of Drug Court, electronic monitoring, Mental Health Court, and Victim/ Offender Reconciliation programs. Barbara was the driving force of the McLean County People to People Festival, bringing 3,000 students and teachers for a conflict resolution conference in 1999.
When hearing loss made it difficult for Barbara to be a part of committee meetings and other events, she began to write poetry and opinion pieces for The Pantagraph and The Normalite newspapers. She is currently active with McLean County League of Women Voters, the Multicultural Leadership Program, the Peaceful Schools Initiative, and the Youth LEADS program.
Her talents and tenacity earned her two awards in 1997, the YWCA Woman of Distinction’s Harriett F. Rust Community Service Award and Normal’s MLK Human Relations Award. Additionally, she received the first Grabill-Homan Peace Prize awarded in 2011. However, the recognition has not changed Barbara’s humble nature. Barbara said, “I’ve always admired the teachings of Jesus. The compassion…the feeling that every person has value and that we are connected to each other and to God… I just hate to see people treated cruelly and unfairly and I always think something should be done about it.”