Eric Adams unveils Ida B. Wells portrait to hang at Borough Hall

Left to right: Brooklyn-based art gallery owner Tekin “Tony” Akbay, Harlem Historical Society President Jacob Morris, Artist Charles Hearn, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the portrait of Ida B. Wells and three of Wells’ great-grandchildren.
Photo by Stephen Witt

Borough President and Democratic nominee for mayor Eric Adams unveiled a new portrait of civil rights icon Ida B. Wells on Friday, July 16, to hang on the wall at Borough Hall. 

The portrait, painted by artist Charles Hearn, will hang in the Victorian Suite of Adams’ Joralemon Street building. It will join a number of portraits of mainly white men and the groundbreaking late Black Congressmember Shirley Chisholm.

Harlem Historical Society President Jacob Morris commissioned and donated the portrait and Brooklyn-based art gallery owner Tekin “Tony” Akbay donated the frame.

Wells, who was born into slavery, was a pioneering journalist and activist who helped co-found the NAACP. 

“Ida B. Wells was a trailblazer and a civil rights giant who fought tirelessly for the equal rights and justice that Black Americans were routinely denied after the Civil War. Her pioneering activism forced a moral reckoning over the evils of lynching, at great personal risk to her own safety,” said Adams. “Without her fearless example, I would not be here as the first Black borough president of Brooklyn. This portrait will serve as a fitting tribute to her contributions and legacy.”

The ceremony comes after a Downtown Brooklyn street was co-named for Wells last March. Adams also declared July 16 as “Ida B. Wells Day” in the borough.

Alongside Adams and Morris were Brooklyn NAACP President L. Joy Williams, author Paula J. Giddings, author and professor Carla Peterson, and three of Wells’ great-grandchildren. 

“It was here in Brooklyn that an incredible group of very accomplished black women coalesced around her to support her anti-lynching crusade. The joining together of these great women who I call ‘Sisters in Freedom’ led to so many other tremendously important milestones and accomplishments in the history of civil rights and suffrage in America,” said Morris. “Honoring Ida here honors not only her but also the greatness of Brooklyn’s history and community.”

​​Wells has received several posthumous awards and recognitions, including a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 2020.

She became internationally renowned for her anti-lynching journalism, as she traveled the south documenting and eventually publishing her findings in a series of pamphlets. 

This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com.