Ida B. Wells monument planned for Chicago


Courtesy Ida B. Wells Commemorative art committee

The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee has created an IndieGoGo page to raise money to honor the legacy of the civil rights pioneer. 


An art committee is fundraising to erect a monument in honor of African-American civil rights leader Ida B. Wells in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. 

On Oct. 1, The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee started an IndieGoGo page to raise $100,000 for the sculpture’s construction south of 37th Street.  It would be the first monument in the City of Chicago to honor an African-American woman.

“The housing community was named after [Wells], but who she is and what she did should not be forgotten,” said Michelle Duster, member of the committee, great-granddaughter of Wells and adjunct professor in Columbia College’s Business & Entrepreneurship Department.

Wells is mostly known for her work in investigative journalism, as well as in the anti-lynching and women’s suffrage movements. Wells made these and many additional contributions in spite of being born a slave in Mississippi, Duster said.

Duster was concerned that her great-grandmother’s name has been disconnected from what she accomplished and more associated with the housing projects, so the committee proposed the monument to honor her legacy.

Sandra Young, co-chair of the committee, lived in the Ida B. Wells Homes for a period of time beginning  in 1978.

“I always wanted to move into the Ida B. Wells development as a young teen,” Young said. “Once I had the opportunity to move in, I was amazed at all the different supportive services in place, but I moved in at a time when services had declined.”

Young said services declined because of a lack of funding—that was when Ida B. Wells’ name became more associated with the projects instead of her accomplishments, she added.

Wells’ legacy has impacted Young’s life “tremendously, because it has you thinking forward and the main thing was that she was a helper to all,” Young said. “As I do my work as a case manager and community activist, it helps me to be able to educate people.”

Anthony Rogers, development manager at Oakwood Shores and co-chair of the Ida B. Wells committee, said the Ida B. Wells housing has been replaced with housings of all types—mixed incomes as well as rentals, which used to be affordable housing for families.

“The negativity of the community has been torn down and moved away, and everything is like a phoenix being reborn with new housing and new amenities to the community,” Rogers said. 

Duster added that the committee considered many ideas before settling on a monument because they wanted a commemoration as well as a place for people to learn about Wells’s contributions.

“There are no monuments in the entire City of Chicago, that are in honor of an African American woman—not one,” Duster said. “This is a way to address that void. It is not possible to give her whole life story on a monument, but [ it can have ] enough information to pique  people’s curiosity.”

Wells’ home is a landmark not far from the proposed monument in Bronzeville, so people on biking and walking tours can see the connection between who she was and where she lived, Duster said.

Young also said she would like to see a large monument for Wells, saying she wants people to see it coming down the street so it can draw them in to learn about her life and significance.

Rogers said Richard Hunt, a Chicago-based sculptor, has been working on different concepts for the monument.

“Richard Hunt is a world-renowned sculptor, and I could not think of a better person to do this than him,” Rogers said. 

The committee is doing some local fundraising, but they also have an IndieGoGo page that allows for donations.

“If we have 10,000 people around the country give $10 each to me, that makes it the people’s monument,” Duster said. “I want as many people as possible to feel like they are part of this. To make a monument in the City of Chicago—that will have national significance.”

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