MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Known as a crusader for justice, Ida B. Wells wrote about lynchings and racial injustice. But her work wasn’t respected by everyone, and she was forced to leave Memphis after her office was destroyed.
“She was not trying to make history. She was trying to right wrongs,” said Dr. LaSimba Gray Jr.
Using the power of the pen, Wells took a stand against racial and gender injustices.
Wells spent 10 years as a teacher and then a journalist in Memphis in the late 1880s.
ALL MONTH LONG, FOX13 WILL BE CELEBRATING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS. WE HAVE AN ENTIRE SECTION DEDICATED TO THEIR STORIES. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.
“She emerged out of the crucible of violence against African American people. Three of her friends were lynched, and she started to write about it in her paper and, because of that, she was driven out of town, but Ida B. Wells didn’t back down from anyone or anything,” said Gray.
Almost 130 years after Wells was forced from the city, a group of Memphians is working to bring her spirit back with a new Ida B. Wells Plaza.
“To do what Ida B. Wells did, when she did it, she had to be God-led and had to be fearless of anyone, and I think about courage, and she said, ‘I guess it’s my job to stand up against these injustices.’ And I think each of us has to know when it’s our time to stand up,” said Gray.
Gray is leading this effort. He said the plaza will include Wells’ statue located at the corner of Beale and Fourth streets, near the same church Wells used as a printing press.
Gray said the plaza will also include an installation called “strange fruit,” acknowledging the anti-lynching movement and four segments representing the major stages of Wells’ life.
“The last station will be a celebration of her life. This is cover the celebration of life — what did she achieve in life,” said Gray as he showed FOX13 around the plaza.
Wells once said, “The way to right wrongs is to shine a light of truth upon them.” Gray said Memphis is now shining a light of appreciation for the journalist and offering a source of inspiration for the next generation of crusaders for justice.
“People who want to see wrong ended, they can get inspiration from Ida B. Wells; she was about that tall but a giant in courage,” he said.
Giant courage that will be memorialized in stone and never forgotten.
The statue will be unveiled on Wells’ birthday, July 16.