Sacred Ground opens in 1919, during the summer of the Chicago race riot, when infant Black and his family arrive in Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama, as part of the first Great Migration. He recounts in vivid detail his childhood and education in the Black Metropolis of Bronzeville and South Side neighborhoods that make up his "sacred ground."
Revealing a priceless trove of experiences, memories, ideas, and opinions, Black describes how it felt to belong to this place, even when stationed in Europe during World War II. He relates how African American soldiers experienced challenges and conflicts during the war, illuminating how these struggles foreshadowed the civil rights movement. A labor organizer, educator, and activist, Black captures fascinating anecdotes and vignettes of meeting with famous figures of the times, such as Duke Ellington and Martin Luther King Jr., but also with unheralded people whose lives convey lessons about striving, uplift, and personal integrity.
Rounding out this memoir, Black reflects on the legacy of his friend and mentee, Barack Obama, as well as on his public works and enduring relationships with students, community workers, and some very influential figures in Chicago and the world.
"For 100 years and counting, Timuel Black has been an eyewitness—and a participant—in the movement for social, racial and economic justice in America. He is a historian and a hero. His memoir Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black is a must read for anyone who cares about the pursuit of equality, equity and dignity for all." —Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
"Timuel Black has used his life to be an agent of change, a griot of history, a conscience to a society that too often has lost it. Timuel Black has left his imprint on lives young and old. He has been transparent in sharing his life and using his experience to teach and share a history too often hidden or lied about. He has called us to wrestle with truth and justice. The streets of Chicago are indeed Sacred Ground because of the beautiful feet of elders like Timuel, who has walked on them and loved the people who lived in them." —Father Michael Pfleger
“Sacred Ground is an unparalleled insight into a community dynamic that touches us all and shapes a future we will all occupy. It gives us a rare glimpse into the perspectives of millions not previously acknowledged. Thanks to Tim Black for sharing his experiences with the world. He does us all a great service with this singular contribution." —Carol Moseley Braun
“Timuel Black is among our best and brightest. He is walking history and an honorary grandfather to many black Chicago thinkers today. This collection of memories brought smiles and tears.” – Natalie Y. Moore, South Side Reporter for WBEZ and author The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation