Tribute to Jacob H. Carruthers
Dr. Jacob Hudson Carruthers, Jr., was one of the great African American scholars, historians, researchers, and educators.
Affectionately known as “Baba Jake,” Dr. Carruthers was born on February 15, 1930, in Dallas, TX, to Marguerite Ruth and Jacob H. Carruthers, Sr. He was nurtured spiritually and intellectually in the African tradition by his family. His father, a United Methodist minister, instilled in his son strong spiritual values, the love of learning, the respect for humanity, and the appreciation of a good story.
Dr. Carruthers excelled academically. Following graduation from Phyllis Wheatley High School in Houston, TX, he attended Samuel Huston College in Austin where he earned his bachelor’s degree. After the United States Supreme Court ruled in Sweatt v. Painter in 1950, Dr. Carruthers, along with Heman Marion Sweatt and three other black students, integrated the University of Texas Law School. Jurisprudence, however, was not his calling, and he did not return the following year. In 1951, facing the draft and the Korean War, he volunteered for the United States Air Force (USAF). After serving in the USAF, he enrolled in Texas Southern University, where he earned a master’s degree in government. His passion for learning and a sense of service led him back to the classroom. From 1961 to 1964, he taught at Prairie View College in Texas. He was the first black student to earn a doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Dr. Carruthers taught at Kansas State College in Pittsburg, KS, for two years. Thereafter, his career led him to Chicago, and in 1968, he joined the faculty of the Department of Inner City Studies Education (ICSE) at the Center for Inner City Studies of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU).
Dr. Carruthers was a professor of history and education at the Center of Inner City Studies of NEIU for thirty-two years. His leadership pioneered the development of both undergraduate and graduate degrees in ICSE, which influenced the development of hundreds of students who sought careers working in the urban environment of the inner city. He contributed to the development of the ICSE academic discipline in the United States, and he fostered the Chicago School of African-Centered Thought. He established himself through his work with leading African and African American scholars in the world through his leadership in the development of a plan to rewrite African history under the aegis of the African World History Project of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC).
Dr. Carruthers authored several important books that provided the framework for the African-centered approach to the research and study of classical African history and African civilization. Of his many works, his most notable work is 1999’s Intellectual Warfare. Many of his works challenged the prevailing ideas in the field of Egyptology and the distorted role of African people in the development of civilization in the ancient Nile Valley.
Among Dr. Carruthers’ many contributions to the worldwide African Liberation Movement was the counseling that he quietly provided to many leading scholars and activists regarding intellectual, organizational, and strategic matters. This he did without fanfare or publicity, which is a shining example of one of his most notable qualities – humility.
On January 4, 2004, Dr. Jacob Hudson Carruthers, Jr., passed away in his home in Chicago. The work and spirit of “Baba Jake” continues at the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS), named after a great intellectual and human being.