South Side Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Timuel Black Jr. was born on December 7, 1918 to two sharecroppers in Birmingham, Alabama. Timuel’s grandfather fought in the Civil War to ensure that one day his family could be free from a life in slavery. While Timuel was less than a year old his family decided to move to the South-side of Chicago. Timuel, also referred to as Tim by his friends attended the all-black public high school of DuSable. Tim enjoyed conversing with his classmates, who were Nat King Cole and John Johnson, who later had their own level of success in their adult lives. After finishing high school, Tim stayed in the Chicago area trying to find work at the local grocery stores, tannery and even was an agent for an assurance company. The Great Depression had taken over the United States and it was hard for anyone, especially Tim to find a stable job. On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy in a surprise attack, bombed the United States naval base located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For Timuel it was a day of celebration because it was his 23rd birthday and decided to celebrate with friends at the local tavern in Chicago. While at the tavern people were discussing the how Pearl Harbor had been bombed that morning and Tim’s famous reaction was, “why she shouldn’t have drank so much.” Tim had thought that Pearl Harbor was the name of a girl in the tavern and not a location within the United States. The next morning, President Roosevelt made his famous Infamy Speech to Congress declaring war on Japan, Germany and Italy. For the next two years, Tim was able to avoid the military draft that had been put in place by the government, but in August of 1943, he was drafted into the 308th Quartermaster Railhead Company. The company was a “forward supply unit,” with all black troops and nearly all white officers in charge.