Chicago’s Congress Parkway renamed after civil rights leader Ida B. Wells

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CHICAGO — The City of Chicago honored teacher, journalist, suffragist and civil rights leader Ida B. Wells Monday, renaming Congress Parkway downtown in her honor.

A stretch of Congress from Grant Park to the Jane Byrne Interchange was officially changed to Ida B. Wells Drive during a renaming ceremony Monday morning at the Harold Washington Library Center downtown.

Her name and life's work is recognized at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama, but now Wells is getting recognition in Chicago, which been a long time coming.

She's actually the first African American woman to get a street named after her in downtown Chicago. A monument will also be placed in her honor at the former site of the Ida B. Wells housing project next year.

Among those present as Wells was honored was her great-granddaughter Michelle Duster.

"It just feels really good; very affirming," Duster said.

Duster is working on a book about Wells, whose story began as a slave born in Mississippi. She was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and went on to be a pioneering figure in U.S. history. Wells became a teacher before starting to work as an investigative journalist. Despite many threats to her life, she used her power to investigate lynchings across the U.S.

When her work forced her out of the south, Wells moved to Chicago, where she lived in Bronzeville. Wells was also a founding member of the NAACP and worked to desegregate schools. She began to work on the suffrage movement, saying, "its either all of us, or none of us."

"As we travel down Ida B Wells Drive from this day forward, may those words, that wherever we go, we want to bring 'all of us' with us," Juliana Stratton said.

Wells died in 1931 at the age of 68, but her legacy lives on.

"[She's] a timeless soul whose acts still reverberate today, through each one of us," Chaz Ebert said. "She is one of those Forgotten Heroes."

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