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Timuel D. Black, Renowned Scholar and Activist, Dead at 102

Timuel D. Black, a historian and author who was known for his activism and lauded for his knowledge of Black Chicago, died on Wednesday. He was 102. 

Black, who migrated with his family to Chicago from Alabama in 1919, emerged as one of the city's most prominent scholars and activists, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when the civil rights leader came to the Windy City in 1960 to protest housing issues for poor residents living on the city's West Side. Timuel D. BlackTimuel D. Black

"Timuel Black's life not only bookended a century, but he wrote the book on it, literally through Bridges of Memory and Sacred Ground," said Chicago's former mayor, Rahm Emanuel. "He wrote history; he witnessed history; and he willed history into being through actions large and small." 

A World War II veteran, Black enrolled in the armed services, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he returned home, he enrolled at Roosevelt University and later earned a master's degree at the University of Chicago. 

He served on the faculty at the City Colleges of Chicago for many years, teaching social science courses. Along the way, he mentored droves of political leaders and a young community organizer named Barack Obama. 

"Today, we lost an icon with the passing of Timuel Black," the former president tweeted. "Over his 102 years, Tim was many things: a veteran, historian, author, educator, civil rights leader, and humanitarian. Michelle and I send our thoughts to his family, and everyone who loved him." 

Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. called Black a "great teacher and a tall tree in the civil rights forest." 

"He was a teacher par excellence," said Jackson, whose friendship with Black stretched across several decades. "He followed students beyond the classroom. Tim taught them about politics and business science. He was a devotee of Dr. King's work and those who worked on his his staff. Tim embraced us as his younger brothers and sisters." 

Walter Hudson can be reached at [email protected] 

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