Timuel Black reflects on Black History

As a child, he was often in the room when Carter G. Woodson organized what is now known as Black History Month. As the years progressed, he saw a segregated Chicago and participated in the fight to remedy it and other cities with a same plight. Now he sch

As a child, he was often in the room when Carter G. Woodson organized what is now known as Black History Month. As the years progressed, he saw a segregated Chicago and participated in the fight to remedy it and other cities with a same plight. Now he schools students of all ages about the struggle and the history of the city they live in.

In a room of book-lined walls, including some stacked on the floor next to a few chairs in his home, noted Chicago historian and author Timuel Black talked with the Defender about the evolution of Negro History Week, his participation in the civil rights struggle and the moment President Barack Obama was sworn in as the United States’ first African American leader.

Black, who has taught anthropology, Black history and sociology at several schools including Columbia College and Roosevelt University, is currently a professor emeritus for the City Colleges of Chicago. He celebrated his 90th birthday in December.

He recalled his regular trips as a boy to the Wabash YMCA in Bronzeville and hearing Woodson, a famed author and journalist, advocate for an official period of acknowledging Black Americans’ achievements.

“I remember Carter G. Woodson always saying there ought to be a Negro History Week, and then he announced it in 1926 at the Wabash ‘Y.’ I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time,” said the Alabama native who moved to Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood a few months before his first birthday.

During Negro History Week, designated as the second week in February, Black celebrated by singing gospel and spiritual hymns and reading the writings of Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois, among others. The nationally recognized week expanded to a full month 50 years later.

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