Each week this summer we’re profiling a character from Studs Terkel’s 1992 oral history, Race. Twenty years after Studs’ book was published, we want to see how these characters' thoughts and feelings on race have changed — or not changed.
There are a few names that are synonymous with Chicago – Studs Terkel is one. Timuel Black is another.
Terkel and Black were friends for more than five decades. When they spoke in the 1990s for the book Race, Black had already retired from a long career as a Chicago Public Schools teacher. For many years, he taught in Chicago's city colleges as well.
Teaching is one part of Black's legacy. But Black also has a long and distinguished history as a labor and civil rights activist.
Today, Timuel Black is a spry 93 years old. In January, he donated his archive to the Chicago Public Library’s Woodson Branch at 95th and Halsted. The archive, which is open to the public, weaves a tapestry of black life in Chicago from the first waves of black migration through to the present day.
When Black came by our studios for the kickoff event in our Race: Out Loud series, he spoke with us about how he wound up in Chicago.
The friendship between Studs Terkel and Timuel Black goes way back. Studs recorded his prize-winning This Train documentary on a train of Chicagoans that Black helped organize to the 1963 March on Washington. And over the years they spoke often about race. Here Black describes a bit about his relationship with Studs.
When it came time to write the book Race, Studs turned to his friend Tim as a trusted source of information.
Twenty years on from the book's publication, Black says class issues have become central to the issue of race in Chicago.
Richard Steele has known Timuel Black since the 1970s and said that what strikes him most is how totally committed Timuel Black is to advancing civil rights for African-Americans in Chicago and keeping an archive for history. After the Race: Out Loud kickoff event, Richard sat down with Timuel for a short (11 minute) interview to discuss the changes they've seen in terms of Race in Chicago.
**Eilee Heikenin-Weiss contributed to this report.