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.
Chapter 1—You Come from People
Chapter 2—Interlude: All That Jazz
Chapter 3—Soldiering On
Chapter 4— Life in Teaching and Teaching Chicago
Chapter 5—Talking to the Elders
Chapter 6—The Power and the Glory
Epilogue--Looking Forward: The Future Belongs to Those Who Fight for It
"In this inspiring, affecting memoir, Black—an organizer, historian, and educator—chronicles his experiences in and beyond Chicago’s historic and predominantly black Bronzeville neighborhood." —Publishers Weekly
"[Black] continues to be an inspiration and mentor to multiple generations of Chicagoans, and now his story can inspire others." —Booklist
"Sacred Ground is a must-read for any citizen of Chicago who wants to understand the racial and political dynamics of our city." —Newcity Lit
"I found the book to be both informative and inspirational, which was precisely Black’s goal . . . The kind of hope this book offers is rooted in perseverance and committed activism." —The Progressive
"Sacred Ground overflows with hope . . . I can't help but be inspired by hopeful and optimistic he is and be baffled at his lack of anger and bitterness at the same time . . . It's clear that Timuel Black's world is not only a result of what surrounds him but what's inside him. We can only hope to leave a few of his rays of hope behind in our life and time." —Cities and Cultures by Kelwin Harris
"Sacred Ground . . . [is] a vivid supplement that gives life to a dry recitation of dates and names. Black's love for his home is palpable, and his commitment to his people is enduring." —PopMatters
“Timuel Black reminds us that we can learn so much from the knowledge and history that are generated—and vibrantly live—within the personal stories and lived experiences of the people and communities around us.” —Elizabeth Todd-Breland, author of A Political Education: Black Politics and Education Reform in Chicago since the 1960s
"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
"Centenarian Timuel D. Black Jr.’ s place of residence for nearly a century was the South Side of Chicago. This space was his “Sacred Ground,” where he served his community as a symbol of civic pride, dedicating his life to advancement in the spheres of education, labor, politics, civil rights and social justice. Sacred Ground is a monument to the high qualities of shared experiences as told to Tim Black and by Tim Black. As he has written, 'One of the best parts of [Barack] Obama’s success, for me and many others, was the way in which it made the South Side of Chicago again seem like the center of the black universe.' This was indeed the power of Tim Black’s “Sacred Ground” at work." —Christopher Robert Reed, author of Knock at the Door of Opportunity: Black Migration to Chicago, 1901-1919 andThe Rise of Chicago’s Black Metropolis, 1920-1929
“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