Elected officials, dignitaries, award-winning journalists, activists and dozens of residents gathered at the Harold Washington Library on Feb. 11, 2019, to officially celebrate the first major Chicago street to carry the name of an African-American woman, Ida B. Wells. The road stretches from Grant Park west to the entrance to the Eisenhower Expressway.
“She was an original boss,” said Ald. Sophia King, 4th, who pushed the effort along with Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, to rename Congress Parkway, a prominent east-west artery. “She spoke truth to power and changed the landscape of Chicago and the world.” Chicago Tribune
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an iconic investigative journalist who crusaded against the racist lynching of black men, pushed for women’s right to vote and started numerous organizations that aimed to improve the economic and social status of African-Americans. She was born into slavery in Mississippi, but went on to be a schoolteacher and created the first kindergarten for black children.
Wells-Barnett settled in Bronzeville in 1894 after her life was threatened, and she developed a reputation as a fearless activist and political strategist. But despite her many accomplishments, innovations and devotion to social justice, her contributions and legacy went largely unacknowledged.
For many years, her name rang out in Chicago because a large public housing complex also bore it. But as a result, the name became associated with poverty and violence. Chicago Tribune
Monday’s ceremony, gave city leaders an opportunity to honor her in a more dignified and glorified way and shed light on her extraordinary life.
Yesterday civil rights icon Ida B. Wells got a long-overdue street name in Chicago. But a tribute to Italian Fascist leader Italo Balbo will remain because the aldermen who originally proposed renaming Balbo Drive bowed to opposition from his fans. https://t.co/Y5q4WsQXyN pic.twitter.com/BOcLChtOWR— John Greenfield (@greenfieldjohn) February 12, 2019
I was so honored to give remarks on the fierce journalism career of my spiritual grandmother today as Ida B Wells Drive became the first street in downtown Chicago named after a black woman. This was such a beautiful moment, honoring her legacy and making black women visible! pic.twitter.com/FDF7QiIvm9— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) February 11, 2019
Business and Entrepreneurship faculty member @MichelleDuster worked for years to honor her great-grandmother, journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells. Today, Chicago officially renamed Congress Parkway to Ida B. Wells Drive #HistoryMakersEveryDay #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/UIeJRrGBqy— Columbia College Chicago (@ColumbiaChi) February 11, 2019