Eric Adams Unveils Ida B. Wells Portrait to Hang at Borough Hall

From left to right are 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, today, July 16,  to hang on the wall of Borough Hall. 

The portrait will hang in the Victorian Suite Of Brooklyn Borough Hall and was painted by artist Charles Hearn. It will join a number of portraits of mainly white men and the groundbreaking late Black Congresswoman 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. 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,” said Adams.

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

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-children. 

“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. Honoring Ida here honors not only her but also the greatness of Brooklyn’s history and community,” said Morris. 

​​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. 

More from Around New York