UChicago to honor historian Black, theater director Bogart at Convocation

The University will award the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service to historian and activist Timuel Black and the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts to Anne Bogart, avant-garde theater director and theorist, on Saturday, June 9 at UChicago’s 511th Convocation.

In support of Timuel Black’s selection, one of his nominators wrote: “Timuel Black is one of the most influential civil rights leaders in Chicago history. He has been a community leader, political activist, thoughtful critic and national voice in the cause of American justice.”

Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Black began his life of social activism as a teenager, walking a picket line to protest discriminatory employment in his neighborhood. He served in the segregated U.S. Army in World War II, returning from the war a decorated veteran so profoundly affected by the devastation he had witnessed that he decided to dedicate his life to work for peace, equality and justice. 

Working alongside political and social activists like Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois and A. Phillip Randolph, Black played a central role in efforts to organize unions, register citizens to vote, and eliminate segregation in the armed forces and the Chicago Public Schools. He organized Chicago’s participation in the 1963 March on Washington and helped lead the successful campaign of Harold Washington to become Chicago’s first black mayor.

A graduate of Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago, Black, AM’54, spent four decades as an educator in the Chicago Public Schools and the City College of Chicago system where he also served as a senior-level administrator. 

Black brings his combination of historical training and understanding of Chicago history to his work on the Black Metropolis Oral History Project. He is the author of Bridges of Memory, a two-volume history of black Chicago, and is currently working on his memoir titled Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black.

Black is the 11th recipient of the Benton Medal, one of the University’s most prestigious awards. It was created and first awarded to Sen. William H. Benton in 1967, and it honors individuals dedicated to public service from a wide variety of backgrounds and occupations. Honorees have included American publisher Katharine Graham, Sen. Paul Simon and Ela Bhatt, international labor leader and humanitarian.     

‘A tireless advocate for the theater’

In selecting Bogart for the Rosenberger Medal, one of her nominators described her as a “tireless advocate for the theater” who has brought her “unique combination of a movement and gesture-based approach to classical themes.”

Bogart is the co-founder and artistic director of the SITI Company, a theater ensemble based in New York City. She has taught master classes and workshops around the world and currently serves on the faculty of the Columbia University School of the Arts, where she runs the Graduate Directing Concentration. 

Born into a Navy family that moved often, Bogart has said that theater gave her a sense of community she had never felt before.  With her first successful production at age 15, Bogart decided she was going to be a director. She later trained at Bard College and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Bogart’s award-winning staging of modern dramas, musicals, operas and collaborative dance pieces has included productions in her Brooklyn brownstone and on the streets of New York City. Two of her productions—Radio Macbeth and Hotel Cassiopeia—have been staged at UChicago’s Court Theatre. Her honors include two Obie awards for off-Broadway work, a Bessie Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a United States Artist Fellowship and a Doris Duke Artist Fellowship, among others.

Bogart’s theories on improvisational, ensemble-building techniques are widely used in theater instruction across the country and around the world. She presents those theories in The Viewpoints Book, co-written with Tina Landau. She has also written three other books that explore directorial technique, the transformative power of art and the role of theater in society: A Director Prepares, And Then You Act and Conversations with Anne.

Bogart is the 48th recipient of the Rosenberger Medal. Established by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse L. Rosenberger in 1917, the award originally honored a wide variety of achievements “deemed of great benefit to humanity,” but it has come to recognize outstanding contributions in creative and performing arts. 

Jazz legend Earl Von Freeman Sr. is the most recent recipient, and other recent honorees include Nobel laureate and author Toni Morrison and South African artist William Kentridge.

Nominations for both the Rosenberger and Benton Medals are submitted and reviewed by members of the faculty and approved by vote of the Council of the Senate.