Home>Travel inspiration>Art + Culture>History + Culture

Monument to Activist Ida B. Wells Unveiled in Chicago

By Associated Press

Jul 2, 2021

share this article
flipboard
An abstract sculpture in honor of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, created by sculptor Richard Hunt in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood

Photo by Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP

An abstract sculpture in honor of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, created by sculptor Richard Hunt in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood

Wells, born enslaved in 1862 in Mississippi, became a newspaper editor and was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer in 2020 for her reporting on the lynching of African Americans.

share this article
flipboard

A monument to journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett was unveiled Wednesday in Chicago.

Officially called The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument, the commemoration created by sculptor Richard Hunt was dedicated in the South Side neighborhood where Wells lived out her life.

The monument has three bronze columns that support intertwined bronze sheets twisted into coils and spirals. One observer had trouble describing the abstraction at the top of the monument, asking if it was a hat or a crown of thorns. She was more certain about the columns.

Celebrated Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt, center, arrives at his abstract monument made in honor of Ida B. Wells.

“It is interesting,” spectator Roberta Trotter told the Chicago Tribune. “I just want to know what the artist thinks before I say more. But I do see a strong base. That, I understand—Ida was a strong woman.”

Granddaughter Michelle Duster said traditional busts and statues of Wells were considered, but she and others pushing for the monument preferred something interpretive, which she said projects Wells better than the literal.

The monument to Wells was financed by contributions made during a fundraising campaign over several years led by Duster. It sits on the site of the Ida B. Wells Homes, a housing project constructed in the 1930s, torn down in 2011, and replaced with market rate and subsidized housing.

Michelle Duster looks at the plaque of her great-grandmother’s portrait.

“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.”

Article continues below advertisement

Congress Parkway, a major street in Chicago’s business district, was renamed for Wells in 2019.

Wells, who was born a slave in 1862 in Mississippi, was a 30-year-old newspaper editor in Memphis, Tennessee, when she began her campaign against lynching. Wells’s crusade was prompted by the 1892 lynching of a man whose first child was her godchild. She traveled the South over several months interviewing witnesses and reading reports of similar events, which she published in the newspaper she co-owned and edited, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

In 2020, Wells was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the lynching of African Americans.

Although she was threatened frequently because of her work, she helped to found several civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of Colored Women.

Wells died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931, at 68.

>> Next: 21 Places to Learn About African American History

Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips

Please enter a valid email address.

Read our privacy policy