Congress Parkway renamed after civil rights leader Ida B. Wells

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Congress Parkway had been rechristened Ida B. Wells Drive several months ago, but seeing the new street signs go up on the busy thoroughfare was still emotional for her descendants.

"I had to take a moment and just stare at the sign. And I was like, 'Wow, we actually did this?'" said Michelle Duster, Wells' great granddaughter.

RELATED: Aldermen approve plan to rename Congress Parkway after Ida B. Wells
EMBED More News Videos

Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader.

Wells was born a slave in the 1860s in Mississippi. Eventually settling in Chicago, she continued to play a key role in civil rights, women's rights and women's suffrage until her death in 1931.

"She was uncompromising, she had very strong principles, very strong values and she never wavered," Duster said.

Ida B. Wells Drive becomes the first downtown street to be named after an African American woman. The name change was worthy of a ceremony bringing out community leaders and politicians, including those who helped lead the charge.

"It has been an honor to learn more about this courageous and under celebrated woman. It is wholeheartedly deserved and long overdue," 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King said.

Wells rose to prominence as a journalist, reporting on lynchings throughout the country and putting herself in harm's way to uncover ugly truths.

"Can you imagine a black woman at that time going into territory where a black man or woman had literally just been strung up and lynched and asking questions about why this was and what happened?" New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah said.

The re-dedication was heralded as more than a new street sign, but as a symbol of Chicago's history by putting Wells' legacy on prominent display in the city.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.