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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Timuel Black Is 1st Inductee Into Illinois Black Hall Of Fame

Reps. Robin Kelly and Danny Davis joined hall of fame organizers to celebrate Black, the 102-year-old historian and civil rights activist from Chicago's Black Belt.

Dr. Timuel D. Black waves to friends and family at his 102nd birthday celebration in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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BRONZEVILLE — Timuel Black, the Bronzeville-based civil rights activist whose grandparents were enslaved people, was honored Friday as the first inductee into the Illinois Black Hall of Fame.

Black turned 102 in December and has focused his work in recent years on inspiring younger generations to create social change.

“I was there at the Wabash YMCA in the ’20s when [Carter G. Woodson] started Negro History Week, which now has become elevated to Black History Month,” Black said at a virtual gala honoring his induction Friday. “I am proud to have lived that period of life.”

Timuel Black and his wife, Zenobia Johnson-Black, in a video interview broadcast during Friday’s gala.

Ceola Davis Barnes, founder of the African-American Ladies’ Legacy Foundation and Rep. Danny Davis’ (D-7th) sister, led the effort to create the hall of fame.

Inductees will be honored with displays at Governors State University in south suburban University Park.

“I believe [Black’s induction] is well deserved,” said Zenobia Johnson-Black, his wife of 40 years. “I have seen firsthand and up close his commitment, dedication, his putting the community first and his activism … . I want to wish my husband 102 more years.”

Davis and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd) attended the ceremony ahead of the House of Representatives’ vote on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

“The Illinois Black Hall of Fame is an idea whose time has come,” Kelly said. “In times like these, it is vitally important that we honor the past, celebrate the present and inspire future generations.”

More “notable African American trailblazers” will be inducted into the Illinois Black Hall of Fame this year on Juneteenth, at a celebration in Black’s honor.

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