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Lined with Gold: Street Name Change to Honor Founding Black Female Civil Rights Activist

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Ida Wells portrait

Gold Street, between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn, may soon be renamed to honor Ida B. Wells, an African-American investigative journalist, teacher, feminist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Wells spent several years on Gold Street in the early 1890s (living near today’s existing Chase Bank), after her Memphis journalism offices were destroyed by white mob violence.

Born into slavery in 1862 Mississippi, Wells became freed a year later after the Civil War and resulting emancipation. Relocating to Memphis later as an adult, she would become one of the founders of the NAACP, and is most remembered for her investigative journalism, dispelling stereotypical myths around the lynchings of black men. Wells’ writing exposed her findings that the lynchings were the result of white social control and subjugation, and not the common claims of attack or sexual violence against white women.

Jacob Morris, the head of the Harlem Historical Society, conceived the idea for Gold Street to bear Wells’ name as a part of his citywide effort to honor prominent black New Yorkers by renaming streets after them. Councilman Stephen Levin introduced the application to rename the street to Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee which granted approval in April. The Executive Committee will vote to make a final decision later this year.

Map of Gold Street to be renamed

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