History Left
History Right
Dorothy Tillman

Saturday 6am – 8am


Mother, Civil Rights Activist, Author, Radio Host, Dorothy Wright Tillman is driven by a passion to improve the plight of African Americans. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Tillman joined the civil rights movement at age sixteen and was christened “The Movement Baby”. As a trainee and a field staff organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), she fought for rights and political consciousness. She marched with Dr. King and was one of the first SCLC organizers to cross the Edmund-Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the infamous Bloody Sunday, a turning point in the battle to ensure the right to vote for African American citizens. While in Chicago with Dr. King in 1965 to fight for the open housing plight, she met and married musician Jimmy Lee Tillman, with whom she has five children.


Tillman and her husband moved to San Francisco soon after they married. She brought the spirit of the civil rights movement with her, successfully mobilizing residents in her public housing community in a battle against the city for public transportation to their neighborhood, which she believed had been nonexistent based on racism and disrespect for the poor.


Upon moving back to Chicago, Tillman enrolled her children in a public school and organized an army of concerned parents to wage a new war, this time fighting for quality education. She eventually founded the Parent Equalizers of Chicago, which has been organized in more than 300 schools, setting the groundwork for school reform in Chicago . The momentum created by several successful grassroots campaigns Tillman help organize, led to the election of Chicago ’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington.


In 1985, Tillman became the first woman to serve as alderman of Chicago’s Third Ward and the only female elected official in the United States who worked on Dr. King’s staff. As a major political figure in Chicago, Tillman’s community-building activities, including the creation of the Chicago Blues District, has led to the revitalization of Bronzeville. Her commitment continues with projects related to issues of waning inner-city education, housing and family needs, preserving Black culture and civil rights. Tillman has also been an extremely influential player in the movement for slave reparations, authoring the Slave Era Disclosure Ordinance in 2000 that has been introduced and duplicated in several governing bodies internationally.


She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her local, national and global activism and has been featured in various books and television features.