Statue honoring Ida B. Wells to be unveiled Friday on Beale Street in Memphis

CW39

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A week of celebrating the life and legacy of journalist and civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells will culminate Friday in downtown Memphis.

The Ida B. Wells statue and plaza will officially be unveiled to the public Friday morning on Beale Street.

Dr. LaSimba Gray, the chair of the Memphis Memorial Committee, the group dedicated to erecting the statue, gave Nexstar’s WREG a sneak peek of the statue unveiling.

“For me personally, it is one of the most gratifying pieces of work I’ve ever done, and for the City of Memphis it says it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Gray said.

The life-size statue, standing 6 feet tall, was erected next to where Wells ran her newspaper inside First Baptist Beale Street Church. Wells was born as a slave July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi and lived and worked in Memphis for 10 years.

“This is where she started her work. She came here looking for a better paying job in teaching and ended up in journalism and then became a national figure in journalism,” Gray said. “Every Black newspaper in the country wanted Ida B. Wells to write for them.”

Wells often wrote about taking a stand against injustice, racism and lynchings.

Elaine Turner, the owner and founder of Heritage Tours, Slave Haven Underground Railroad tours and the WC Handy Museum, has waited decades for this day.

“I am so elated,” Turner said. “It’s just a marvelous thing to see this Black woman stand here and tell the truth and let others know that you got to tell the truth too.”

In the late 1800s, Wells took a stand against lynching and injustice against African Americans. Many feel her work is a model for issues many are still facing today.

“We have the uprising, the insurgence, the insurrection of the capitol of our nation, democracy is on the operating table in intensive care. So, now Ida B. Wells gives us a model to address these kinds of concerns,” Gray said.

“If more people would speak out like Ida B. Wells and tell the truth and expose the horrors of brutality and injustice, then we could make this whole country better,” Turner said.

Gray hopes others will find inspiration today when they gaze upon the only statue in the world celebrating the legacy of Ida B. Wells.

“I will see the image of a woman who fought when the odds seemingly were unbeatable, a woman who stood for courage to speak truth to power … if she did it 130 years ago, we can still do it today,” Gray said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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