Dr. Black inspired me: Reflection from Maceo Thomas


When I arrived at Loop City College as a student in 1971, Oscar Shabat was the Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. Dr. David H. Heller was the President of Loop City College.

Prior to enrolling, I had heard about the quality of education — I heard about its reputation as an institution of academic excellence. Both of which had a profound impact on my decision to pursue a music degree at Loop City College —now named Harold Washington College. All my teachers were phenomenal.

I worked in the audio-visual department. As a student aid, our primary responsibilities were to take down equipment and film requests for our faculty.

This is when I met Dr. Black.

Professor Black was a regular visitor to the department. He often ordered many 16mm films with social themes like history. He was always very meticulous in his selections.  I found him gregarious and a scintillating personality.

We talked about my education and he was always encouraging me, us, to do our best.

He always had something positive to say. He was genuine. The “Real Deal!” Students loved him and he was very popular with everyone at the college.

In 2003, his book “Bridges of Memory: Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration” was released. He held a book signing at the DuSable Museum of African American History (it is possible that it could have been somewhere else). I purchased his book and Dr. Black signed it.

I had been giving historical presentations on “The Black Alliance Network” since 2014. On one particular night I selected “Black Metropolis” as my topic.

I talked about how the largest settlement of African Americans, in Chicago, was along a concentrated area known as “The Black Belt,” from Van Buren and State Street, to 39th and State Street. I talked about how this strip of real estate blossomed into “Black Metropolis” with the first wave of “The Great Migration.” I also talked about how gamblers like, John “Mushmouth” Johnson” used their wealth to empower “Black Metropolis.”  How the great Oscar Stanton DePriest, after arriving in Chicago in 1889, became a County Commissioner in 1904, Alderman 1915 and the first Black Congressman in the North in 1929. And so much more.

Upon completion, Dr. Black was elated with my presentation! He complimented me. I reminded him that I was a student at Loop City College and that we knew each other. He told me that he was proud of me. He went on to talk about growing up in “Black Metropolis.

In closing, I want to thank Dr. Timuel Black for being his authentic self, an inspiration to me—for being a light and for paving our way.