The Kennedy School of Government (KSG) recently celebrated the launch of poster reproductions of the portrait of Ida B. Wells that hangs in the School’s Fainsod Room. The painting of Wells — a fierce anti-lynching crusader and journalist — was installed in April 2006 next to Winston Churchill. It marked the first commissioned oil portrait at the School.
Born into slavery in 1862, Wells worked as a schoolteacher and journalist before becoming a lecturer organizing against lynching. She worked with Frederick Douglass to protest the way that African Americans were represented at the Chicago World’s Fair; with W.E.B. Du Bois in the “Committee of 40” that gave rise to the NAACP; with Jane Addams to prevent segregation of the Chicago schools; and with Susan B. Anthony on women’s suffrage, founding the first black women’s suffrage organization in Chicago and fighting racism in the suffrage movement.
“We are called a school of government,” said Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, “but we are a school for public actors far more generally. Half the students are now international. Whether from the U.S. or abroad, students from the Kennedy School are leaders throughout the public realm. We wanted to express that strength through the choice of leaders in our portraits as well as in our classrooms.”