On December 7, 2018, one of Chicago's greatest treasures, Timuel Black, Jr., turns 100! Please join us in wishing him the happiest of birthdays!
Black was born in Alabama, but his family moved to Chicago while he still an infant and, lucky for us, he never left. A tireless and lifelong advocate of civil rights, Black attended Burke Elementary School and DuSable High School, where he played basketball. In fact, his senior yearbook states his future goal as "Basketball Instructor."
After serving overseas in World War II, Black returned to Chicago, eventually earning degrees from Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago. In the 1950s and early 60s, he taught at high schools in Chicago and Gary, Indiana, before accepting a position with City Colleges of Chicago in 1969; he retired in 1989. Black made an unsuccessful bid for 4th Ward alderman in 1963, calling for an end to Chicago's "plantation politics," a phrase he coined. Later that year, A. Phillip Randolph, the national president of the Negro American Labor Council, tapped Black to be the Chicago coordinator of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He's also worked alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harold Washington.
Black wears many hats: educator, activist, historian, living archive, organizer, husband, father, author, biographer, and citizen of Bronzeville and the globe (I'm sure I've left one or two off the list!). In 2003, Black donated his papers to the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection at Woodson Regional Library. Included in his papers are correspondence, manuscripts, subject files, oral histories, audiovisual materials, photographs and memorabilia. Scholars, documentary film makers and even Metro History Fair students have viewed and used items from the collection.
Black also produced and published two volumes of oral histories highlighting the Black experience in Chicago during and after the Great Migration:
His memoir will be published in early 2019. The Harsh Collection will be documenting Black's birthday and life with a program on December 8. I've also seen a number of other institutions getting in on the celebration with concerts and lectures. Do you have any stories to share about this remarkable Chicagoan?