The first public housing development for African-Americans in Chicago was built in 1941 in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago’s mid-south area, east of what is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. In response to community pressure, the development was named for the great journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, who had once lived across the street from the location of the new development. It was the largest of the demonstration developments built under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration and was the first housing development in Chicago to incorporate a city park, which offered playgrounds and athletic fields. In its early years, it was a much desired location for working families.
The Ida B. Wells public housing development stood for over 60 years, until 2002. It was demolished to make way for the mixed-income community of Oakwood Shores, a new community that incorporates public housing dispersed among other renters and homeowners. Former residents of the Ida B. Wells public housing development, along with other community leaders and activists, wished to keep the legacy of Ida B. Wells alive in the community. Although the former Bronzeville home of Ida B. Wells (located at 3624 S. King Drive) is a national landmark, it is little recognized and there is no other monument in Chicago dedicated to Ida B. Wells.