Columbia's Congress Parkway building now has a new address following the historic street name change from Congress Parkway to Ida B. Wells Drive.
The city voted to change the street name in summer 2018 to honor the civil rights activist and journalist who lived in Chicago from 1895 until her death in 1931. This is the first street in downtown Chicago named after a black woman.
Wells began an anti-lynching campaign in 1892 following the lynching of three African-Americans in Memphis, Tennessee. Her reports resulted in death threats that forced her to leave the South, but she was eventually able to gain support for reform and civil rights.
Her anti-lynching campaign and reporting reached President William McKinley’s desk in 1898. While lynching is not currently a federal crime, it may soon be. An anti-lynching bill unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Feb. 14 and will now advance to the House of Representatives.
The change was made official during a Feb. 11 ceremony joined by Mayor Emanuel, Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward), Brenden Reilly (42nd Ward) and Michelle Duster, a professor in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department and Wells’ great-granddaughter.
“Ida B. Wells had the drive and tenacity to dedicate almost 50 years of her life fighting for African-Americans to have equal opportunity to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Duster said. “Ida B. Wells Drive reminds everyone that regardless of where they started in life, or what their gender, race, religion or ability may be, it is possible to make your voice heard.”