Timuel Black Jr. Mesmerizes at NABJ-CC Black History Forum
NABJ-Chicago celebrated Black History Month with an inspiring and energizing fireside chat with the iconic Timuel Black Jr.
Black, an elder statesman and griot of Chicago’s black community, turned 100 on Dec. 7, 2018. On Monday, he took 30 attendees through a century of civil rights struggle and political activism. The lifelong educator and storyteller reminded audience members of their place in keeping traditions alive.
“I am optimistic about life. I had to be,” Black said. “We have a responsibility to let our younger people know the history but also know not getting involved might make you a victim, not a victor.”
A World War II veteran, Black taught for many years in the Chicago Public Schools, followed by 30 years at City Colleges of Chicago, before retiring in 1989. Raised in Chicago’s segregated “Black Belt,” he graduated in 1935 from DuSable High School, where classmates included John H. Johnson and Nat King Cole. He said his “mission was to break the barriers of segregation.”
Black worked with activists Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois in the ’40s and ’50s; alongside Dr. Martin Luther King in the ’60s. He was heavily involved in King’s Chicago Freedom Movement, and helped organize Chicagoans’ participation in the ’63 March on Washington. Over the course of seven decades, he helped establish and was active in over 100 civil rights/labor organizations.
And Black was instrumental in the election of Chicago’s first black mayor, in 1983, as well as the election of the nation’s first black president, in 2008.