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Donation surge has organizers close to funding goal for Ida B. Wells monument

The proposed site of a monument for Ida B. Wells at 37th and Langley. | Provided by Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee

A massive influx of donations on Monday put organizers within striking distance of their fundraising goal to build a Chicago monument honoring civil rights icon Ida B. Wells.

Michelle Duster, Wells’ great-granddaughter who has helped spearhead the decadelong effort for a monument, said the “humongous” surge in giving was spurred by the birthday of the late journalist and anti-lynching crusader.

More 900 people made donations Monday to the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee totaling nearly $40,000.

“It was just an unbelievable outpouring,” Duster said.

The group had gone into the day about 61 percent toward their $300,000 goal, and as of Tuesday night — without counting the money pledged but not yet deposited by some organizations — were about 85 percent of the way to their $300,000 goal, Duster said.

EDITORIAL: Chicago, build a memorial to Ida B. Wells, but not at Balbo’s expense

“Until we have that money in hand and it’s deposited and accounted for, I hesitate to say it’s a done deal,” Duster said. “We still have a little bit of a ways to go.”

The monument would be sculpted and erected on the Langley Boulevard median just south of 37th Street, at the site of the former public housing development that used to bear Wells’ name. Wells lived much of her life in Bronzeville.

Last month, city aldermen unveiled a plan to rename Congress Parkway for Wells, avoiding a bitter battle with Italian-American groups over a proposal to rename Balbo Drive

The movement to recognize Wells — who is credited with giving women in Illinois the right to vote 10 years ahead of women outside the state — gained momentum earlier this year when the New York Times highlighted her as part of a series on women overlooked in their archive of obituaries, Duster said.

Duster said she hopes they’ll officially hit their goal by the end of the month.

“The best of of this has just been seeing how my great-grandmother inspired so many. All the way from grammar kids writing poems and skits, to people writing dissertations,” Duster said. “It spans the spectrum of who she was and what she meant to people.”