Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument

Legacies: Three Trailblazers

Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument

Chicago, Illinois 60614, United States

Created By: Cru Chicago



The staging of the 1893 Columbia Exposition World’s Fair was the occasion for famed justice-crusader Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s move to Chicago. Wells, along with the prominent former professional abolitionist Frederick Douglass, both moved to Chicago to call attention to the fact that the accomplishments of African Americans were completely overlooked in the celebration of US history. Together, Wells, Douglass, and other organizers published a pamphlet calling out organizers of the Exposition for failing to highlight the gains of the African American community in the years following emancipation. They used the occasion to call attention to systemic racism and to highlight the evils of lynching— Well’s longtime focus. Wells credited the work of Chicago-area African American women with raising funds to make the pamphlet available broadly.

After the Exposition, Douglass left Chicago while Ida B. Wells and the husband she’d met upon moving to Chicago, attorney Ferdinand Lee Barnett, continued on and lived in this house from 1919 to 1929. Born into slavery in Mississippi, Wells wrote as an investigative journalist for a newspaper in Tennessee documenting lynchings in the United States in the 1890’s. In The Reason Why, as in other publications, she argued that the preposterous reason given for many lynchings was the assumed sexual prowess of African American men toward Caucasian women. She found this particularly troublesome given that during the Civil War southerners left their home and their wives in the care of these supposed threats as they went off to defend the cause of slavery.

Wells pursued a variety of civil rights causes throughout her life and was a founding member of the National Association of Colored People in 1909. In 1941, a Chicago Housing Authority public housing project in Bronzeville was named the Ida B. Wells Homes in her honor. Though the projects bore her name as a supposed honor, they were segregated housing in accordance with federal regulations for public housing. The last of the buildings was demolished in 2011.

Her nearby house (3624 S. Martin Luther King Drive) was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and a Chicago landmark in 1995. The descendants of Wells, as well as other community activists, worked tirelessly to see this monument erected in 2021.


1. "The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition." The Library of Congress. Accessed April 20, 2018.

2. "Ida B. Wells Homes." Wikipedia. April 10, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2018.

3. "Ida B. Wells-Barnett House." Wikipedia. April 24, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2018.

4. "Ida B Wells." YouTube. February 23, 2016. Accessed April 20, 2018.


6. Ida B. Wells (2018, April 20) Retrieved from

This point of interest is part of the tour: Legacies: Three Trailblazers


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