(Chicago – June 30) – The Windy City is buzzing with news a public sculpture of iconic women’s rights activist and journalist Ida B. Wells is being unveiled today at 10:30 a.m. CST. The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee will host a dedication ceremony for the “Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument,” on the site of the former Ida B. Wells public housing development which was demolished in 2011. According to Ms. Wells’ great granddaughter Michelle Duster, an educator and historian, “the sculpture was 13 years in the making.” The impetus to build the monument occurred following the demolition of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ida B. Wells homes, the first community in the city built predominantly for the African American community.
The monument is sculpted by Richard Hunt, 86, perhaps the most significant African-American sculptor in modern history because of his celebrated work in abstract art, lithographs and public sculptures. Hunt has created over 150 public sculptures including Freedmen’s Column at Howard University and I Have Been to the Mountain, a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. King was killed. In 1969, Hunt became the first African-American sculptor to be honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Chicago native, who is also a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, says it is a “dream project. “The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument” will live in Bronzeville, where Wells worked as an investigative journalist covering racism, segregation, voting rights and other issues of equity.
Born in Holly Springs, MS, Ida B. Wells was an early leader of the civil rights movement and a founder of the Niagra Movement in 1905 which would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). An investigative journalist, Wells led an anti-lynching crusade using the Black Press to educate and create awareness about the predatory, hateful, violent and murderous practice including the newspapers she founded:The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and Free Speech. It was this crusade that actually forced Wells to flee Memphis and head to Chicago after a white mob destroyed Wells’ building where she published the Free Speech due to the writer’s editorials against the practice of lynching.
The public sculpture of Ida B. Wells is only the second monument or public sculpture to honor an African-American woman in the history of the city of Chicago. The first is a memorial of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks entitled, “The Oracle of Bronzeville” which also sits in the Bronzeville area of the city.
Watch the herstoric event today at 11:30 a.m. EST/10:30 a.m.CST Live on Facebook.
This story was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder and editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.