Tucked away in the Oakland community of Bronzeville stands the historically prominent Abraham Lincoln Center, an inspired, original 1905 design conceived by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is here where people of all races, nationalities and religious faiths converged to share knowledge and common experience. In the first half of the 20th century, prominent speakers including sociologist, civil rights activist and author W.E.B. Du Bois addressed the important issues of the day.
Today, the former Abraham Lincoln Center is Northeastern Illinois University’s Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS), serving an urban/inner-city student population for the past 51 years. It is an institution that is recognized worldwide.
Donald H. Smith, an assistant professor of Speech and Anthropology at Northeastern, helped found the Center for Inner City Studies (CICS) in 1966 through federal funding received from the Office of Education during its first two years of existence. Anderson Thompson and Jacob H. Carruthers designed the curriculum to be taught from an African-American perspective.
Fulfilling its urban mission to meet the educational needs of inner-city residents in an interdisciplinary setting, CICS focused on the social sciences and humanities. The earliest CICS program, the Experienced Teacher Fellowship Program, retrained inner-city teachers in Chicago and across the United States by providing them with the necessary cultural and educational tools to help them fully understand and better serve the communities and schools in which they were assigned to work.
In 1968, Northeastern’s College of Education established the Department of Inner City Studies Education, offering two master’s degree programs in Inner City Studies Education and an M.Ed in Inner City Studies. Since then, more than 1,700 students have earned master’s degrees in the field of Inner City Studies.
Federal funding bolstered the CICS undergraduate curriculum during the 1970-71 school year with the Career Opportunities Program that certified more than 400 inner-city teacher aides. CICS grew and prospered through the leadership of outstanding faculty and administration including Smith, Carruthers, Thompson, Nancy Arnaz, Donn Bailey, Conrad Worrill, Edward Barnes and Sonja Stone, who chaired the first Department of Inner City Studies Education.
President Emerita Salme H. Steinberg appointed Carruthers as the director of CICS to succeed Bailey. Carruthers was the founding director of the Kemetic Institute, the Temple of the African Community of Chicago, and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. The esteemed South Side educator was one of three African-American students to integrate the University of Texas Law School in 1950 and the first black student to earn a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He joined the faculty of the Department of Inner City Studies Education in 1968.
Carruthers taught history and education until his passing in January 2004, at which time Northeastern honored his memory by renaming the center the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Each year since 2006, the Kemetic Institute and CCICS have sponsored an annual conference hosted in his name.
“The naming of the Center for Inner City Studies after Jacob H. Carruthers means the continuation of a legacy and the Kemetic concept of divine speech, or good speech,” said Worrill, who succeeded Carruthers and served 12 of his 40 years at CCICS as director. “If you do good speech or good deeds, your name should be placed in eternity.”
On September 15, 2016, CCICS marked its 50th anniversary of service to Chicago communities and students with a lecture given by Greg Kimathi Carr, chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University.