Black migrated with his family to Chicago from Alabama in 1919.
Growing up in the notorious Black belt in the South, he quickly learned the ways of the world, and learned early on the rules to follow, to avoid trouble.
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In Chicago, he attended Burke Elementary School and DuSable High School.
Black was 23 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and that led to his service during World War II.
After his return home, he would attend Roosevelt University, and he received a master’s degree at the University of Chicago.
In 1960, Black worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when the civil rights leader came to the city to protest housing issues for poor residents living on Chicago’s West Side.
Three years later, he would help organize the Chicago contingent of 2,000 people that would attend the historic March on Washington.
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Dr. King became a confidante to Black, and Dr. King’s legacy was reflected on Black’s teachings and his politics.
“I have to carry that dream in my mind and in my heart,” he said. “I have an obligation to this man who articulated, for me, and many more. The dream of the world as it ought to be.”
He was inspired by his parents’ attitude that change is going to come. He said the march created an optimism that would shape the rest of his life.
He ran and lost his first campaign for alderman, but he was instrumental in the historic election of Harold Washington as the first African American mayor of Chicago.
Black was a professor of social science for many years at the City Colleges of Chicago. He went on to write several books, including “Bridges of Memory” about African Americans who left the South and came to Chicago in search of a better life, and “Sacred Ground, the Chicago Streets of Timuel Black”
In 1991, a young activist by the name of Barack Obama wanted to become a community organizer in Chicago. so he sought the advice of Professor Black.
Black would attend the inauguration of the first African American president of the United States.
Professor Black had abundant pride in knowing that the journey to the White House, traveled to his neighborhood because the Obamas were his neighbors, before they moved to the most famous address in the country.
But Professor Black said, while history was made with President Obama, we still hadn’t quite fulfilled the dream of his good friend Dr King for a post racial society.
“Race has not been overcome, is still a part of this society,” Black said.
Black, who made a living off of history and would live to see much of it, turned 100 years old in 2018. And while the centenarian had slowed, he never stopped fighting for civil rights for all. Black said his extraordinary life gave him a feeling of great satisfaction. And he went on to say at this point, a sense of fulfillment as the end of time comes, I feel satisfied that I lived a happy, productive life for myself and others.
“Keep the faith,” he said. “Take care of yourself. Go to bed at night and get a good night’s sleep and start all over tomorrow.”
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