By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
While Black women were instrumental in women gaining the right to vote on Aug. 18, 1920, they were met with racism from their White counterparts during the suffrage fight and are now often forgotten as foremothers of the movement. Despite not always having been invited to the table, Black women such as Ida B. Wells pulled up their own seats, made their voices heard and fought religiously, even after 1920, when Black people, in general, were hassled and systemically stopped from voting. It is because of her relentless fight and courage, despite racism, that Union Station in Washington, D.C. is commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with a 1,000 square foot mosaic mural of Ida B. Wells from Aug. 24-28.
“I think Ida B. Wells should be remembered as an African-American woman who battled both racism and sexism at a time when it was extremely dangerous to speak out,” Michelle Duster, Wells’ granddaughter said, according to Suffrage100MA. “She used her gift of writing, speaking and organizing to help shed light on injustice. She was extremely brave and held steadfast to her convictions despite being criticized, ostracized and marginalized by her contemporaries.”
When looking at the massive mural, entitled “Our Story: Portraits of Change,” thousands of photos of Wells’ contemporaries are combined to make up the beautiful image of the bold, Black woman, journalist and freedom fighter. Designed by Helen Marshall of People’s Picture, commissioned by Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and produced by Purpose Entertainment, the mosaic mural is one means of honoring the woman who, though sometimes forgotten in larger suffrage conversations, persistently fought for justice.
“One had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap,” Wells said.
Wells being honored with a mural installation in the nation’s capital has great weight, because in 1913 she and other Black suffragists were turned away from marching in the front of the first women’s suffrage parade in Washington, D.C.
“Ida B. Wells is one of the best known Black suffragists. In 1913, when some White women’s suffrage organizations tried to exclude Black women from their Women Suffrage Procession, she infamously inserted herself into the parade, refusing to march in a segregated unit,” said AFRO Archives Director Savannah Wood, who recently was instrumental in the release of the new book To the Front: Black Women and the Vote.
Wood, like many familiar with Wells’ contributions, contends that the mural is a beautiful way of honoring the work and legacy of the writer and civil rights leader.
“Between her posthumous Pulitzer recognition and this stunning mosaic in her honor, it seems she is finally getting her due from mainstream organizations,” Wood said.
Those who are unable to make it to Union Station from Aug. 24-28 are able to take part in the art online and zoom in on the individual photos featured.
For more information, visit https://www.ourstory100.com/artwork/