Timuel Black, Historian and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 102Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, civil rights, African American history, Chicago, urban history, Great Migration
Activist, educator, historian Timuel Black, the revered elder statesman and griot of Chicago’s Black community, was active in every major American movement during his long life and spent his later years telling stories from our nation’s blueprint — in oral and literary form.
“I consider Dec. 7, 1918, a famous day in history,” the lifelong labor, political and civil rights activist said of his birth date as he reflected on his storied life at a celebration when he turned 100.
A retired sociology and anthropology professor with City Colleges of Chicago, a former Chicago Public Schools high school history teacher and a pioneer in the independent Black political movement who coined the phrase “plantation politics,” Mr. Black died Wednesday.
“I just can’t imagine life without him. He’s been so supportive and has been my protector, my confidante. I miss him already,” said Zenobia Johnson-Black, his wife of 40 years.
“Tim left his mark on this city, on his friends who knew him and on those who knew of him, and he would like for his legacy to be an inspiration to people who are trying to make this world a better place, because that’s all he tried to do,” his wife said.
The revered community leader and scholar was 102.
“My mother and father were children of former slaves, my great-grandparents, products of the Emancipation Proclamation,” the Chicago treasure said in an interview with Sun-Times when he turned 100. “I came up in a time when African American men — women, too — were being lynched, the racial segregation so terrible, people were fleeing to escape the terrorism.”
Among those expressing sadness at Mr. Black’s death was Barack Obama, who said “the city of Chicago and the world lost an icon with the passing of Timuel Black.”
The former president’s statement continued: “Over his 102 years, Tim was many things: a veteran, historian, author, educator, civil rights leader, and humanitarian. 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.”
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