By TONIA HILL
Dr. Timuel Black, professor, historian and civil rights activist was honored this morning during a Black History Month ceremony at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts, 555. E. 51st St.
Today, Black was presented with the “Dyett Eagle Award.” The eagle is the school’s mascot and represents freedom and courage.
“Dr. Timuel Black has a rich history and legacy of activism,” said Beulah McLoyd, principal at Dyett High School. “He’s been instrumental in chronicling the history of Bronzeville and the Great Migration. It’s important that you remember where you came from and that you honor the elders because we stand on their shoulders.”
Black was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 7, 1918, but was raised in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. He is an educator, political activist, and community leader, oral historian, and philosopher. He attended Burke Elementary School and DuSable High School.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University and master’s degree from the University of Chicago. He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Black worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1956, Black brought King to the University of Chicago’s campus, which was his first major address in the city of Chicago.
“Whatever we saw that was difficult in front of us we [realized] that we could overcome,” Black said.
During the Civil Rights Movement, he organized the Freedom Trains that transported thousands of Chicago residents to the March on Washington in August 1963.
Black is the author of a two-part oral history series titled “Bridges in Memory” he has also written an autobiography.
During the ceremony, Dyett students performed a brief showcase representative of the four art programs offered at the school: digital design, visual art, monologues from theatre students and a dance performance.
To kick off the start of the ceremony the schools’ choir, students, staff, and guests sang along to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which is known as the Black National Anthem.
Sophomore students, Camryn Morgan and Daria Meaux, recited monologues. The school’s dance team performed a piece to “Glory” a song by John Legend and Common that is the theme song for the movie “Selma,” which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches.
Black, who spoke following the program, described his experience in activism during the Civil Rights Movement and on life growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood. He spoke of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Walter H. Dyett and other prominent African Americans who inspired him throughout his time as an activist.
“We come from the cream of the crop,” said Black referring to black Americans’ African ancestry.
In his remarks, Black also gave words of encouragement to Dyett High School students, who filled the school’s theater for the performance.
“I can say to all of you without question I used to be your age,” said Black, who is 99. “Keep on keeping on with doing something every day that not only you enjoy but [that] is a contribution to not only your life but prepares you to make life better for others. You have a responsibility as your ancestors did to not only look just at present but prepare to meet the future.”