100 Years of Hope: University Alum Timuel Black Awarded For Life of Civic Engagement

Professor, historian, and University of Chicago alumnus Timuel Black, AM’54, was honored by the University for his lifelong, scholarly fight to improve the South Side and his decades of volunteerism, education, and activism. He received special recognition at the University's annual Reception in Recognition of Community Partnerships on October 23, where he was celebrated for his life's work of telling the unvarnished truth about the history of the city's South Side neighborhoods. Black will be 100 years old in December 2018.

“It is remarkable to think about all of the civic and cultural contributions that Tim Black has made and continues to make, as part of his lifelong commitment to this community," University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said of Black, as he addressed the crowd of several hundred people gathered at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, on 53rd Street in Hyde Park.

Zimmer noted Black’s role in bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to campus in 1956, and thanked Black for his continued work leading incoming first year students on a tour of Bronzeville, sharing the history of the South Side, the place he calls “Sacred Ground.” During those tours, Black encourages and inspires students to enrich their experience by taking advantage of the opportunities the University provides to engage with the community. 

Black has been previously awarded both the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service and the Alumni Diversity Leadership Award by the University of Chicago.

UChicago Office of Civic Engagement staff at the 2018 Reception in Recognition of Community Partnerships.

Said Black, in accepting the most recent honor: “Early on in my life, I learned that where there is unity, there is strength... Keep on going and be prepared and unified. With that spirituality, we make the necessary changes to make this a better community and then eventually a better city and a better world.”

The University’s honoring of Black’s work was a highlight of the community partnership reception. The annual event, hosted by President Zimmer, is intended to celebrate the community organizations and community leaders who are part of collaborations with the University, and the positive difference those efforts are making in South Side neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

“We are striving to build a model for how a strong research university in a great city can work closely with community partners to establish and strengthen mutually beneficial connections,” said Zimmer. “That happens only with the involvement of active partners who are effective leaders, and we are fortunate to have many such partners.” 

“We’re committed to long-term shared prosperity on the South Side, where the exchange of ideas, opportunities, and innovation creates a vibrant community for all,” said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs at the University of Chicago. “We really try to build our civic engagement programs around partnerships and we want to continue to ask you, our partners, to push us, to work with us, to share your ideas, to bring your collaboration so we can continue to advance this work together. Without partnerships, we simply wouldn't be able to accomplish as much.” 

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