A statue honoring Ida B. Wells will be unveiled on Beale Street in Memphis on Friday
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WREG) – A week-long celebration of the life and legacy of journalist and civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells culminates in downtown Memphis on Friday.
The Ida B. Wells statue and plaza will be officially unveiled to the public Friday morning on Beale Street.
Dr LaSimba Gray, chairman of the Memphis Memorial Committee, the group dedicated to the erection of the statue, gave Nexstar’s WREG a preview of the statue’s unveiling.
“For me personally this is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done, and for the city of Memphis it says it’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Gray.
The life-size statue, measuring 6 feet tall, was erected next to where Wells posted his diary inside First Baptist Beale Street Church. Wells was born as a slave on 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, then became a national figure in journalism, ”said Gray. “Every black newspaper in the country wanted Ida B. Wells to write for them.”
Wells has written often about his stand against injustice, racism and lynchings.
Elaine Turner, owner and founder of Heritage Tours, Slave Haven Underground Railroad Tours and WC Handy Museum, has been waiting for this day for decades.
“I am so thrilled,” Turner said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to see this black woman standing here and speaking the truth and letting others know that you have to speak the truth too.”
In the late 1800s, Wells took a stand against lynching and injustice against African Americans. Many believe his work is a model for the problems many still face today.
“We have the uprising, the insurgency, the insurgency of the capital of our nation, democracy is on the operating table in intensive care. So now Ida B. Wells is giving us a model to address these kinds of concerns, ”Gray said.
“If more people spoke like Ida B. Wells and spoke the truth and exposed 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 contemplate the world’s only statue celebrating the legacy of Ida B. Wells.
“I will see a picture of a woman who fought when the odds were seemingly unbeatable, a woman who stood up for the courage to speak the truth in power… if she did it 130 years ago, we can still do it today, ”Gray said.