Chicago’s Congress Parkway has been renamed Ida B. Wells Drive after pioneering journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Earlier this week, Chicago’s City Council passed an ordinance to rename the Congress Parkway after the Mississippi native, making Ida B. Wells Drive, the first street in downtown Chicago to be named after a black woman, reports Chicago Curbed.
“I’m proud to have co-sponsored this important measure with Alderman King to give Ida B. Wells the recognition she deserves,” said 42nd Ward Alderman Reilly to the Curbed. “She was a courageous leader of the women’s suffrage movement and a tireless advocate for justice. Ida B. Wells has an important place in Chicago’s history, and now has a prominent street in downtown Chicago to honor her memory.”
Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, MS in 1862. Despite being born into human bondage, Wells graduated from Shaw University, where she studied journalism. As a pioneering new reporter, Wells used her career as a springboard to spread awareness about the lynching of blacks as well as other issues of race and politics. Writing under the pen name, Iola, Wells eventually became the owner of the Memphis newspaper Free Speech.
In her book Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and all is Phases– which has been made available, and free of charge, by the Gutenberg Project–Wells explored how white men perpetrated sexual violence against black women and the brutalization of black men by white mobs for having consensual sex with white women. She also argued that the portrayal of black men as rapists was used to cover the violent attitudes of white men who raped black women.
Wells died Mar. 25, 1931 in Chicago. She was 61.