Meyer Weinberg, who was known as "Mike" to his many students, colleagues and friends, was born in New York in 1920, after his mother was rushed from the deck of the arriving S.S. Canada, with its cargo of Russian immigrants, to a hospital. The family, his father (a carpenter), his mother and Weinberg's two older brothers settled in Chicago. Weinberg received his B.A. (1942) and M.A. (1945) degrees at the University of Chicago, often working on weekends in the small delicatessen his parents operated on Chicago's West Side. During World War II, he worked as a precision inspector at the Dodge-Chicago plant, where aircraft engines were built for B-29 airplanes. He was an active member of the union and became a line steward, then Chief Department Steward in Local 274 ( UAW-CIO). He was also editor of the union's newspaper.

After the war, he taught at Wright Junior City College in Chicago for many years, and became Professor of History at City College, Chicago, in 1971. He was Director of the Center for Equal Education at Northwestern University from 1972 to 1978. In 1978, he was appointed Professor in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, then Professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. He was Director of the Horace Mann Bond Center for Equal Education at the university from 1978 to 1990, and Professor Emeritus, 1990-92. He was the first holder of the Veffie Milstead Jones Chair in Multicultural Education at California State University (Long Beach), from 1992-94.

Weinberg was a leading participant in the civil rights struggle in Chicago during the 1960s, where he was Chairman of the Education Committee of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations from 1963-67. He served as consultant to the boards of education of various cities and also to Howard University, the Florida Desegregation Center at the University of Miami, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Ford Foundation, the National Catholic Conference on Interracial Justice, and the Stanford Research Institute. He was a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Illinois Board of Education in 1971 and 1972.

He was a member of the American History Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Society for Legal History.

A Short History of American Capitalism was his eighteenth book. He died in Chicago on February 28, 2002.

Photograph: Riyo Sato