City Colleges of Chicago Honor Timuel D. Black Jr. with the Ella Flagg Young Award


The City Colleges of Chicago Foundation announces that Timuel D. Black Jr. is the 2021 recipient of its Ella Flagg Young Award. This award is presented yearly to a leader who has made a critical difference in Chicago through their partnership with City Colleges of Chicago.

Mr. Black is a nationally-respected educator, political activist, community leader, oral historian, philanthropist, and philosopher. He is being honored for his past work with City Colleges of Chicago as he has held both faculty and administrative positions within the colleges as well as for his courageous leadership and vast accomplishments.

“I am honored to accept the award. It exemplifies what can happen if a person has the dedication to others and something beside him or herself. I was reared in that kind of environment, both community and mother and father, and I feel honored to be honored with an award from City Colleges of Chicago.”

Mr. Black has received numerous honors and awards, including the ACLU’s Civil Libertarian of the Year and the City of Chicago’s inaugural Champion of Freedom medal. At 102 years old, Timuel Black continues to call the South Side of Chicago his home.

Ella Flagg Young was the first woman in America to head a major urban school system and was superintendent of schools when City Colleges of Chicago opened its doors on September 11, 1911.

More about Timuel D. Black Jr.

Mr. Black was born in Birmingham, Alabama on December 7, 1918. His family became part of the first Great Migration of African Americans from the deep south, settling in Chicago in 1919. He has lived in the same south side neighborhood since then. During his early school years at Edmund Burke Elementary School and DuSable High School, Mr. Black worked as a paperboy for the Chicago Defender.

It was the early 1930s when he helped organize the “Don’t Spend Your Money Where You Can’t Work” campaign, which lead to the formation of the Negro Retail Clerks Union. In the 1940s, he was an active organizer of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), which worked to desegregate Chicago department stores and public spaces.

Mr. Black also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was awarded four battle stars and a Croix de Guerre, the highest military honor accorded by France to non-citizens. In 1955, after seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on television, Mr. Black was motivated to abandon his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago to become an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Immersing himself in civil rights work. He would go on to serve as the Chicago Chair of the historic 1963 March on Washington.

He was appointed dean of City Colleges of Chicago’s Wilbur Wright College in 1969, and promoted to vice president of Academic Affairs at CCC’s Olive-Harvey College in 1972. Soon after, Mr. Black was promoted to the new position of director and chairperson of Community Affairs for City Colleges.

The wide-ranging duties of this position allowed Mr. Black to foster relationships between the colleges, communities and private organizations. Due to budget cuts in 1975, Mr. Black’s position was eliminated and he resumed teaching at CCC’s Loop College (now Harold Washington College). He held a professorship there until he formally retired from CCC in 1989.

A pioneer in the independent Black political movement, Mr. Black was one of the first African Americans in Chicago to challenge the “Regular Democratic Organization” and coined the phrase “Plantation Politics.” He has run for public office several times and was a leader in the massive voter registration campaign which resulted in the election of Mayor Harold Washington.

Two volumes of Mr. Black’s three-volume work, Bridges of Memory: Chicago’s First Wave of Great Migration, have been published, with the third volume forthcoming. These books chronicle the history of Black Chicago from the 1920s to the present.

In 2000, Mr. Black served as the lead plaintiff in Black v. McGuffage, a lawsuit which charged the Illinois voting system with systemic discrimination against minorities. For his work, he was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union as Civil Libertarian of the Year.

In 2008, he received an honorary doctoral degree from his alma mater, Roosevelt University. In 2010, and again in 2015, he traveled to the Netherlands and The Hague to be honored and lecture at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Dinner of the United States Embassy.

In January of 2012, the Timuel D. Black Archive was officially inaugurated and opened to researchers. The massive archive of Black’s documents, letters and memorabilia is housed in the Vivian Harsh Collection at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in Chicago.

In June of 2012, half a century after he withdrew from the University of Chicago, Dr. King, Timuel Black was awarded the 2012 Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service from the University of Chicago. He was the first person of color ever to receive this award.

In 2013, the City of Chicago honored Mr. Black with the inaugural Chicago Champion of Freedom medal in recognition of his work in the civil rights movement both locally and nationally.

Timuel Black’s memoir, Sacred Ground, focusing heavily on his lifelong home, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2019.

About the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation

The CCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting CCC students as they pursue their education. Gifts from alumni, donors and community partners allow CCC to continue providing a pathway of life-long learning for the people of Chicago. For more information regarding named scholarships and endowments contact: | 312-553-2541​​​​​