The Chicago City Council has renamed a short stretch of Congress Parkway in the Loop in honor of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a journalist who publicized to both national and international audiences the terror blacks lived with because of the practice of lynching that could occur for any real, imagined or fabricated social indiscretion.
The east-west street is the first to be named honoring a black woman. The street is between Grant Park and the expressway interchange at the west end of downtown, but it would not go farther west into the city’s West Side.
In the book “At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America,” author Philip Dray writes that no person was more remarkable of that era than Wells, a native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, who wrote about and spread the word about the terrors of lynching.
Lynchings of black men, women and children were attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, but no one knew who attended could remember who committed the crimes, Dray wrote. The silence was stronger than Omerta, the code of silence among Italian members of the Mafia.
Wells traveled to England twice, raising money to fight lynching. The British were shocked by her reports concerning the murders of black people.
Chicago City Council renamed part of the parkway after Wells after The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a memorial to the more than 4,400 black lynching victims in the South, opened in April of this year in Montgomery, Alabama.
Wells was born July 6, 1862. She died March 25, 1931, in Chicago. She was 68.