“Ida B. Wells: The Legacy Continues” was the luncheon theme as the Ida B. Wells Memphis Memorial Committee met to thank donors, bestow awards and consider future projects. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

The Memphis City Council will be asked to rename a portion of Fourth Street in honor of Ida B. Wells.

That was part of the news that came out of a Sept. 17 luncheon in which the Ida B. Wells Memphis Memorial Committee met to thank donors, bestow awards and consider future projects. 

The thank-you luncheon at the historic Mt. Olive Cathedral CME Church took both a reflective look back at what the committee achieved and a look forward to “the work that lies ahead,” said the committee’s organizer Dr. L. LaSimba Gray Jr.

Dr. Bill Adkins, senior pastor of Greater Imani The Cathedral of Faith, was not in attendance on Friday, but shared his excitement about the anticipated street renaming to honor Wells.

Adkins said two Memphis City Council members are expected to co-sponsor a renaming resolution next month. The measure will ask city officials to rename Fourth Street for Ida B. Wells, from Union Avenue Downtown to McLemore Avenue in South Memphis.

Gray said the luncheon” was an opportunity for the committee to “look at what we have been able to do, the things that have already been accomplished. We looked at the relationships we were able to build and what our next steps forward should be.

The luncheon’s theme, “Ida B. Wells: The Legacy Continues,” speaks to the intent of the committee to continue “the work.”

Committee treasurer Pastor Darrell Harrington, who also pastors New Sardis Baptist Church, said the group wants to “enhance the image” of Memphis.

“This luncheon was certainly a celebration of all the Lord has helped us to do,” said Harrington. “But it was also an opportunity to reflect on our mission and build on our motive for organizing in the first place. 

“We will continue to look for opportunities to enhance the image of the city. We are looking to erect more monuments that employ justice for all, statues of honor that stand for what is just and right.”

On July 16, after more than a year of fundraising, Gray and the committee unveiled a life-size statue of Wells, the storied, anti-lynching journalist, at the corner of Beale and Fourth Streets. The statue looks west toward the Mississippi River and is the cornerstone of the Ida B. Wells Plaza.

Hundreds came out to witness the historic event, which drew coverage from national news outlets.

The monument’s unveiling was the culminating highlight of a week-long schedule of panel discussions, a ministers’ summit, a parade, a pilgrimage to the lynching site that sparked Wells’ outcry against a triple lynching in Memphis, and a worship service at First Baptist Church-Beale Street, where Wells ran her newspaper’s press.

“The Ida B. Wells Plaza is 80 percent complete,” said Gray. “And when it is finished, we will be asking the Memphis City Council to rename a portion of Fourth Street in honor of Ida B. Wells.

“There are a lot of reasons why this is right. Look at the example of courage she left, a profile in courageous protest against the widespread practice of lynching black people, particularly in the South. We need to lift her up.” 

Adkins added, “The Ida B. Wells statue is right there on the corner of historic Beale and Fourth Streets,” said Adkins. “It stands on the corner where Tri-State Bank once stood and where Church Park and First Baptist Beale Street are located. We need to capitalize on our history. That corner and the surrounding area is rich in Black History, and we should remember the contributions of Ida B. Wells by renaming a portion of Fourth Street.”