Timuel Black

Camera original footage shot for the documentary '63 Boycott from Kartemquin Films. ’63 Boycott is a thirty-minute documentary and web project highlighting the stories of participants in the 1963 Chicago Public School (CPS) Boycott (also known as Freedom Day). One of the largest Civil Rights demonstrations in the city’s history, on October 22, 1963, a coalition of civil rights groups, local activists, and 250,000 students staged a mass boycott and demonstration against the Chicago Board of Education to protest racial segregation and inadequate resources for Black students. This interview features Timuel Black, a long-time Civil Rights activist, educator, and historian of African-American history. In the 1960s Black served as an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. and led the Chicago contingent to the 1963 March on Washington.

00:28Copy video clip URL Introduction and interview preparation by Tracye Matthews. Timuel Black describes his early years and arrival to Chicago.

01:51Copy video clip URL Director Gordon Quinn adjusts Black’s attire for a better camera shot.

03:48Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Black talks about the struggle for better education that drove the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to Chicago. After going abroad to fight with the United States Army in World War II, Black returned to Chicago along with fellow students from DuSable High School and began to seek better opportunities for their community. Later attending Roosevelt University for his undergraduate degree, Black describes meeting people like Harold Washington and engaging in community activism.

07:01Copy video clip URL Black describes the impact of the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruling and his efforts to organize for education reform following the ruling. Though schools in the North were supposedly not segregated, Black describes the hidden presence of segregation in Chicago Public Schools through redistricting policies that led to overcrowding and what was known as “de-facto” segregation.

09:13Copy video clip URL Black talks about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Chicago and relationship with Rev. A.P. Jackson, a minister at Liberty Baptist Church in Chicago. Black also describes connecting with individuals organizing groups like the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to focus on education issues in the Chicago Freedom movement. He recalls the presence of empty classrooms in majority white schools while majority black schools endured overcrowding and lack of public funds for schools supplies.

11:52Copy video clip URL Redirected back to the time of mass migration of Blacks from the South to Chicago, Black describes the three basic conditions for a better life these communities sought in the North. Because of the emphasis on education, Black says, many Black communities before WWII placed a high value on community based education. However, after WWII, social, political, and technological changes began to disenfranchise and marginalize Black communities from accessing quality education. Black then describes push back against integration and support of the use of so-called “Willis Wagons,” the mobile trailer classrooms used to house students from overcrowded Black schools, from those in the business community.

17:43Copy video clip URL Black states that former Chicago Public Schools superintendent Benjamin Willis was brought in purposely by Mayor Richard Daley to keep Chicago schools segregated.

18:00Copy video clip URL Interview interrupts for setting adjustments.

19:07Copy video clip URL Black’s efforts organizing for education reform prior to the 1963 school boycott. He describes the individuals, organizations, labor unions, and community groups involved who were able to connect the struggle for education and racial equality in Chicago with the Freedom movement in the South and throughout the United States. Black recalls the decision to call for a school boycott after returning from the March on Washington and the recruitment efforts of activists in local Chicago schools.

26:06Copy video clip URL Black’s own personal efforts to organize the community for the boycott. He talks about the establishment of Freedom Schools where students went on the day of the boycott.

28:28Copy video clip URL The development of the idea for Freedom Schools, their curriculum, and the specifics of organizing for their success.

29:52Copy video clip URL Black’s involvement in the days leading up to the boycott and on the day of the boycott. Black talks about the influence of the March on Washington among local communities and how this drove enthusiasm and momentum to the 1963 boycott. Interview interrupts briefly and then returns. 

33:07Copy video clip URL Interview halts again. Adjustments are made to the surroundings. Black talks about the differences in school atmosphere and culture.

34:55Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Black describes the hope generated by the boycott.

36:33Copy video clip URL The goals and demands of the 1963 boycott from Black’s perspective. Following the boycott, Black remembers the hopes and goals gained by the community as a result of their organizing for change. However, the Chicago Board of Education’s refusal to replace Willis as CPS superintendent generated increasing tensions between community organizers and elected leadership. Despite continued smaller protests against the mayor, Black mentions how the war in Vietnam began to divert energy away from the education movement.

41:12Copy video clip URL Black’s involvement in the second school boycott, held in 1966. Despite Willis’s removal from office as a result of the second boycott, Black says, it drew less attention and community involvement. Another adjustment is made to the setting.

43:50Copy video clip URL Accomplishments of the boycott from Black’s perspective. Despite the boycott’s significant turnout and later removal of Benjamin Willis, Black considers why long-term improvement to resource distribution and quality of education did not take place in CPS on the South and West Sides.

49:28Copy video clip URL Black lists various skills and tactics used by community organizers and activists during the Civil Rights movement and considers how these skills might impact another generation of organizers and activists.

54:29Copy video clip URL Black compares the compounding issues of class and race in 1963 and 2013 as they effected, in different measure, Chicago communities and public school students. He talks about the impact of the Supreme Court case Shelley vs. Kraemer, which struck down racially restrictive housing covenants, and how different degrees of economic mobility began to change local communities. Black further mentions the influence of local arts, culture, and the thriving music scene that existed on the South and West Sides of Chicago, which declined following the exit of more affluent or middle class families and businesses from these neighborhoods.

61:37Copy video clip URL Black’s opinion of mandating elected officials to the Chicago Board of Education.

65:06Copy video clip URL Influence of the boycott’s success on Dr. King’s visit to Chicago. Video briefly interrupts and then resumes. Black then describes in his relationship with Dr. King and the circumstances that led to King’s visit to Chicago in 1965 and his focus on education, housing, and civil rights. Black also talks about King’s visit to Marquette Park in 1966 and the infamous white nationalist mob that protested King’s visit and struck him in the head with a rock. Following that incident, Black says that he began to part ways from Dr. King’s nonviolent strategy.

72:32Copy video clip URL Black talks about Rosie Simpson’s role organizing for education reform and the boycott. Black explains how Simpson took his place to testify before the Chicago Board of Education.

76:58Copy video clip URL Black emphasizes the importance of his testimony as a witness and participant in the struggle of the Freedom movement.

79:00Copy video clip URL Black’s opinion about the influence of technology, music, and social media on community organizing. Black also talks about the challenges facing current students in public schools.

87:28Copy video clip URL In talking about the negative influence of standardized testing in the educational system,

 

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