Monument Honoring Ida B. Wells-Barnett Unveiled In Chicago

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A monument honoring journalist and civil rights pioneer, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was unveiled on Wednesday (June 30) in Chicago. "The Light of Truth" Ida B. Wells National Monument was created by sculptor Richard Hunt and dedicated in the city’s South Side neighborhood where the icon lived. 

The monument features three bronze columns that hold up an intricate design of twisted bronze sheets made out into coils. Wells-Barnett’s great-granddaughter Michelle Duster told NPR that a more traditional bust or statue of the journalist herself were considered, but that ultimately the abstract design was selected to better project Wells.

The monument stands on the site of the Ida B. Wells Homes, a housing project erected in the 1930s that was later torn down and replaced with subsidized housing. The outlet reported that the monument was financed through a years-long fundraising campaign led by Duster. 

“Hopefully it becomes a point of pride to Bronzeville, the kind of thing people want to serve as a backdrop to their lives here,” Duster said. “That’s what I want –– a gathering spot.” In 2019, the city renamed Congress Parkway, a major street in the business district, after Wells.

Wells was born enslaved in Mississippi in 1862. She famously launched an anti-lynching campaign in the late 1890s as a newspaper editor in Memphis, Tennessee. Wells traveled across the South, gathering witness testimonies and reading reports of incidents of lynching, raising awareness of the widespread practice in the newspaper she co-owned and edited, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

In 2020, she posthumously received a Pulitzer Prize for her courageous reporting. In her life, she helped found multiple civil rights organizations including the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women. 

Wells-Barnett died in 1931 at the age of 68.

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