Ida B. Wells is honored at Union Station in Washington DC, which before the coronavirus pandemic was one of the busiest stations in the country.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in 1920 granting a woman the right to vote in the United States (it would take several decades later for black women and other women of color to receive the same right), a painting Ida B. Wells mural is being installed on the station floor.
Anna Laymon, executive director of the Centennial Women’s Suffrage Commission, told TBEN: “What we can do with this art installation is we can show the depths of this movement. It was not a single woman who fought for the right to vote, it was thousands. “
The mosaic measures 1,000 square feet and was commissioned by the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage. The mural is titled “Our Story: Portraits of Change” and was designed by People’s Photo artist Helen Marshall. Like Wells, there are also smaller images of countless other female suffragists and activists who fought for the right to vote.
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Wells to receive this honor at a station is quite appropriate. In May 1884, while going to take classes at Fisk University, Wells was on a train bound for Nashville, Tennessee. A train conductor asked her to move from her seat in a ladies’ car to a steaming car. After Wells refused to budge, she was physically forced by a group of men and removed from her seat.
The incident prompted her to take legal action against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad company. Wells won the case and received $ 500. Unfortunately, his victory was short-lived as the company appealed the verdict and the case went to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court reversed the decision and ruled that Wells had attempted to cause “hardship” to the railroad by not following the conductor’s orders.
Wells’ case received national attention as it was the first of its kind. She took the opportunity to start writing about the experience of The lifestyle, a newspaper of the black church. The popularity of the article earned him a column called “Iola”.
This sparked Wells’ writing career. In the coming months, she began publishing articles in black newspapers across the country. In 1889, she became co-owner and editor-in-chief of a Memphis publication entitled Free voice and lighthouse.
Her influence, daring, and unapologetic demeanor created a legacy that continues to influence many black female journalists today.