From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Timuel Black, Civil Rights Champion And Historian, Dies At 102: ‘Tim Gave His All To All Of Us’
Date October 15, 2021 12:00 AM
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[ The Civil Rights icon, who moved to Chicago in 1919 as one of
the earliest participants in the Great Migration, died Wednesday at
his Drexel Boulevard home.] [[link removed]]

TIMUEL BLACK, CIVIL RIGHTS CHAMPION AND HISTORIAN, DIES AT 102:
‘TIM GAVE HIS ALL TO ALL OF US’  
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Maxwell Evans
October 12, 2021
Block Club Chicago
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_ The Civil Rights icon, who moved to Chicago in 1919 as one of the
earliest participants in the Great Migration, died Wednesday at his
Drexel Boulevard home. _

Activist and historian Timuel Black., credit: Wendell Hutson/DNAinfo
// Block Club Chicago

 

Timuel D. Black Jr., the civil rights champion who from birth was a
witness to and key participant in Black American history, died
Wednesday at the age of 102.

Black, the son of Alabama sharecroppers whose grandparents were once
enslaved, was born Dec. 7, 1918. He died less than two months shy of
his 103rd birthday, a city spokesperson confirmed.

Black spent his final days in hospice care
[[link removed]] at
his Drexel Boulevard home alongside Zenobia Johnson-Black, his wife of
four decades.

He received visits from friends and family as he was “surrounded by
his books and art, listening and nodding to Duke Ellington and Ella
Fitzgerald,” said Susan Klonsky, who co-wrote Black’s memoir
“Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black
[[link removed]].”

A GoFundMe campaign
[[link removed]],
organized last week with an initial goal of $50,000, raised $112,000
for his care and other expenses as of Wednesday.

“Thanks to your generosity and quick response, the family was able
to arrange for round-the-clock care at home,” Klonsky wrote to
donors on the campaign’s page.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. poses with Dr. Timuel D. Black at his 102nd
birthday celebration in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood on Dec. 7,
2020.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Black moved to Chicago’s Black Belt as an infant in 1919, making him
one of earliest members in the Great Migration from the agricultural
South to the industrial North. Growing up in the vibrant Black
Metropolis
[[link removed]] allowed
him to participate in Black history milestones from a young age.

“I was there at the Wabash YMCA
[[link removed]] in
the ’20s when [Carter G. Woodson] started Negro History Week, which
now has become elevated to Black History Month,” Black said in
March.

As a young man in World War II, Black served in all-Black supply unit,
during which he witnessed the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration
camp.

Immediately following the war, he returned to the U.S. with a desire
to organize for the civil rights of Black people, he wrote in
a January 1946 letter to his brother Walter
[[link removed]].
Black veterans “should be the focal point” of any organizing
campaign, he said.

“Walt, we as Negroes are far, far too divided for our own good,”
Black wrote. “I think that it is high time that we come closer
together, so that we can demand some things that we deserve, and have
those demands respected.”

Black was a Chicago public high school teacher from 1955 to 1966. He
first taught at DuSable High School, then at Hyde Park High, where he
established an African history club for students.

During this time, he served as A. Philip Randolph’s Chicago
coordinator for the March on Washington, and helped organize the 1963
“Freedom Day” protests
[[link removed]] against
Chicago Public Schools’ segregationist policies.

“He was an important part of my development of Black consciousness,
or as the young folks say now, being ‘woke,'” former student Lois
Bell wrote on the GoFundMe campaign. “He was ahead of his time. He
has had a tremendous impact on so many people. What a life.”

Jeff Fort, the “untrained and uneducated but very intelligent”
founder of the Blackstone Rangers
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was one of Black’s students at Hyde Park High. In later years, Black
tried to encourage Fort and the South Side street organization to
build a political coalition with the Black Panthers
[[link removed]] on
the West Side, to no avail.

Black “served as a central pillar in the abiding struggle for racial
and economic equity in the city of Chicago and across the nation,”
the Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement. “He has been a
mentor, advocate and voice of hope for countless Chicagoans and people
of conscience, giving his entire life to service that supports the
needs of the many and the common good of all.”

From Fort to Barack Obama, Black Chicagoans in radical, city, state,
national and international politics were influenced by Black’s work.

Harold Washington’s successful 1983 mayoral campaign came about in
no small part due to Black’s efforts.

Black was “visible in just about every political committee” that
led Washington to be the first Black mayor in the city’s history,
according to the Chicago Public Library
[[link removed]]. He chaired the
People’s Movement for Voter Registration, which organized the
pivotal Come Alive October 5 registration drive of 1982.

When a young Obama was kicking off his career in politics, he “asked
to know Tim Black.” The future president wanted to connect with
“someone who knew about the old Black Belt” and the type of
activism that succeeded in bringing about change, Black said.

“Chicago and the world lost an icon with the passing of Timuel
Black,” Obama said in a statement Wednesday. Black was “a fierce
advocate for change through education and mutual understanding,” he
said.

“Over his 102 years, Tim was many things: a veteran, historian,
author, educator, civil rights leader, and humanitarian,” Obama
said. “But above all, Tim was a testament to the power of place, and
how the work we do to improve one community can end up reverberating
through other neighborhoods and other cities, eventually changing the
world. Today, Michelle and I send our thoughts to Tim’s wife,
Zenobia, and everyone who loved and admired this truly incredible
man.”

An archival image of the late Bishop Charles Mason Ford and Timuel
Black at the Saint Paul Church of God in Christ in the Grand Boulevard
neighborhood on March 16, 2021
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Upon retiring from the City Colleges of Chicago in 1989, Black began
to transition from on-the-ground activist to the South Side’s
premier griot.

Even into his second century of life — which was dominated by the
coronavirus pandemic — Black would regularly make public appearances
to share his wealth of knowledge with his neighbors, both in-person
[[link removed]] and online
[[link removed]].

Black was “the heartbeat of the Black community,” both in Chicago
and across the world, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) said in a statement.

From Black’s role in Carol Moseley Braun’s election as the first
Black woman Senator, to his roles in the historic elections of
Washington and Obama, “Tim’s contributions were felt in every
single one of these historic achievements,” Rush said.

“My friend Tim Black spent every day of his life pouring his best
into others,” he said. “As an educator, a community activist, a
civil rights activist, a political activist, a confidante, an elder,
and a sage, Tim gave his all to all of us.”

Timuel Black and his wife Zenobia Johnson-Black, in a video interview
broadcast in February.
Credit: Block Club Chicago
Black was honored as the first inductee to the Illinois Black Hall of
Fame
[[link removed]] Feb.
26.

The honor was “well deserved,” Johnson-Black said at his Hall of
Fame induction. “I have seen firsthand and up close his commitment,
dedication, his putting the community first and his activism.”

Black’s lifetime of working for social equality was driven by the
“optimism” his ancestors maintained, even as they were enslaved
and living through the horrors of the Jim Crow South, he told Chicago
Magazine amid the uprisings over George Floyd’s murder last summer.

He spent his later years advocating for youth to learn and refine the
organizing tools of generations past — with hope for the future
chiefly among them.

“I do this hoping that knowledge and that inspiration will encourage
them to feel an obligation, which their ancestors did,” Black said
last December. “Trouble don’t last always. … Carry the message
forward.”

To browse the Chicago Public Library’s digital collection of
Black’s speeches, letters and photos, click here
[[link removed]].

Dr. Timuel D. Black waves to friends and family at his 102nd birthday
celebration in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2020.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

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