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A Massive Ida B. Wells Mosaic Is Coming to Union Station

The art installation of the suffragist and anti-lynching activist will be on display for a week.

A rendering of “Our Story: Portraits of Change Mosaic of Ida B. Wells.” Photograph courtesy the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.

A 1,000-square-foot mosaic of civil rights leader, suffragist, and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells will be at Union Station starting Monday, August 24. The art installation, “Our Story: Portraits of Change Mosaic of Ida B. Wells,” features tiles illustrating 5,000 historic photographs that altogether depict a portrait of Wells. The piece, created by British artist Helen Marshall and produced by Purpose Entertainment, was commissioned by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which was certified into the US Constitution on August 26, 1920—the date that is now celebrated as Women’s Equality Day.

Wells was a tenacious and influential figure in the fight for women’s suffrage and she was a vocal critic of the arm of the movement that prioritized white women’s right to vote over the rights of Black women, indigenous women, and women of color. The mosaic contains the portraits of a diverse array of suffragists that viewers can also see in an interactive version of the work online where you can zoom in on individual tiles and explore the many histories Wells’s portrait contains.

Union Station is also a historic site in the women’s suffrage movement. In February 1919, 26 activists with the National Woman’s Party started their cross-country “Prison Special” train tour at the station. The suffragists had been jailed after picketing the White House so they decided to charter a train that they called “Democracy Limited” to travel and share their experiences as political prisoners. Wells’s portrait will be at the station through Friday, August 28.

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“Our Story: Portraits of Change Mosaic of Ida B. Wells” will be on display at Union Station from Monday 8/24 to Friday 8/28.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.