Ancestor Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers: Intellectual Warrior, African-Centered Scholar, Part 2
Updated: Jan 12, 2022
By Dr. Josef Ben Levi
Presented by Omni-U Virtual University
The implementation of Sabayeet as the Foundation of an African- Centered Curriculum
An African-Centered philosophy of education has its roots in the classical academy of antiquity and is embedded in a concept known as Sebayeet to the ancient people of the Nile Valley. Sebayeet means instruction, wise teaching, deep thought, and philosophy. It is derived from the ancient Egyptian word Seba, meaning star, light, and enlightenment. It is also sometimes used for the word "teacher" implying that a teacher is one who gives light to the mind. Students were provided with these instructions at the At Seba, i.e., the House of Instruction or school. This course of action was reflected in the word Shedi, "to educate," which uses the determinative of a woman's breast to indicate that this process of suckling started at a very early age.
African-centered scholars committed to educational excellence for African American students will do well to follow the advice of their ancient ancestors. A people without an historical consciousness cannot perform a Sankofa i.e, they cannot "go back and fetch."
SANKOFA BIRD (Above)
If a people have been told that they have no history to go back and fetch; how can they even conceive of such a notion when their minds are unconscious of their past? (Hegel, 1899/1956) There must be light-bearers to show them the way out of "the cave of intellectual darkness into the light of self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-sufficiency" (Plato's allegory). The legacy of Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, as well as that of the members of the Chicago School of African-centered educational thought, represents only one of those light-bearers. Together, they are shining the beacon which leads to a way out of intellectual darkness for African American students.
Nile Valley Scholarship and African-Centered Education: The Foundation
It was Ancestor Dr. Diop who insisted that Dr. Carruthers become a Nile Valley scholar and ,upon his return home, Dr. Carruthers began to immerse himself in the study of the ancient Egyptian language, becoming one of the first African Americans to be recognized as an authority on Medew Netcher. Dr. Diop declared that without knowledge of Medew Netcher African-centered scholars would be stuck with the many mis-translations of ancient Egyptian texts and inscriptions (available today) that have been produced by Western European and American Egyptologists. This set of instructions served Dr. Carruthers as he organized what became known as the Grand 1977 African Study Tour, in which the author was a major participant. (Carruthers, 2002)
The Grand 1977 African Study Tour was very significant for at least three reasons: (1) Dr. Carruthers brought a large contingent of both graduate and undergraduate students to Africa- many of whom were experiencing their first trip of this kind. (2) It provided an opportunity for us to meet with and receive enlightening and scholarly instruction from Dr. Diop, whose available works in English we had been studying. And (3) We also gained personal insights into the 1974 UNESCO Symposium on the Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script from the very UNESCO member who had called for the convening of the conferences to engage Western European and White American Egyptologists on the question of the Africanness of the ancient Egyptian people, culture, and language. It was a very poignant lesson in the manner in which the knowledge of ancient Egypt was constructed among international scholars as well as how it was deconstructed for dissemination to the public.
Dr. Carruthers received instructions from Dr. Diop on studying specific iconography on the walls of tombs in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt. Dr. Diop provided a letter of introduction to Dr. Carruthers for Dr. Gamal Moktar who, at the time, was Director of the Service of Antiquities in Egypt. Dr. Moktar was also general editor of the eight volumes of UNESCO General History of Africa, which has become one of the definitive libraries on the history of Africa. It was Dr. Diop who insisted that we enter the Tomb of Ramesses III, known as Kings Valley 11 (KV 11), in Egyptological circles; where the Egyptians and Nubians are identically dressed and are portrayed with the same black faces. This tomb is closed to ordinary tourists, and most don't even know of its existence or significance. Not even with a letter from a prominent UNESCO member were we allowed admittance to the tomb-until something that could have turned into a nasty international incident occurred. (Carruthers, 2002)
One evening, while our group was having a welcoming party with other Nubian residents of Luxor, Egypt; the Vice Mayor of Luxor, who was an Arab Egyptian, tried to get a little more "fresh" with one of our female students. Considering the historical association between Arab slavers and Africans especially when it came to African women-her complaint provided us with the opportunity to get into the Tomb of Ramesses III. Thus, with the consent of the student who had been harassed; the Vice Mayor of Luxor agreed to our demand for compensation by making arrangements for us to be taken across the Nile from the east bank, the" area of the living" where we were staying, to the west bank, the "place of the dead" and, in addition, he ordered the security patrol to open the Tomb of Ramesses III for us.
It was an amazing sight! Sixteen carved and elaborately painted figures stood around two walls with four figures each representing the Egyptians, Libyans, Nubians, and Asians. There are others like it -which are also not open to the public- of which Western European and American Egyptologists are quite well aware. But, what makes the Tomb of Ramesses III so unique is that the images of the Egyptians and the Nubians are exactly the same in dress and phenotype, i.e. black! (Carruthers, 2002; Bauval & Brophy, 2011)
As he began to develop these Nile Valley study groups, Dr. Carruthers returned with student research groups in 1978 and 1979. I was a participant in these tours as well since I, too, had begun to study Medew Netcher seriously. Other than Dr. Carruthers, I was the only one who could read the language fairly well at that time. This movement began to spread and, subsequently, included study groups in all four regions of the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and Europe.The vast majority of those study groups are still active today.
The great thing about these study groups is that they were not limited just to lettered scholars, but also consisted of people from every facet of the African and African American community. They were designed to be- and remain- a community collaboration which has lasted for more than thirty years and spawned two new generations of up and coming African and African American Nile Valley scholars. Most of these scholars are lettered in university disciplines which have Nile Valley Studies as a focal point of their curricula. These institutions include the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University; The Africana Studies Program at Temple University; The Africana Studies Program at Howard University; San Francisco State University; San Diego State University; Kent State University; and the University of Dayton - just to name a few here in the United States.
Dr. Carruthers was the author of several books and essays, including "Mdw Ntr, Divine Speech: A Historiographical Reflection of African Deep Thought from the Time of the Pharaohs to the Present (1995)"; "Intellectual Warfare (1994)"; "Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies (1984)"; "The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution" (1985);" "Science and Oppression; and, along with Dr. Maulana Karenga, "Kemet and the African Worldview: Research, Rescue and Restoration (1985) .” He lectured widely in the United States and around the world on classical African civilization, political science, history, and Pan-Africanism. He was the founder, in 1979, of the internationally known Kemetic Institute of Chicago (KI), which grew out of the first 1977 Nile Valley Study Tour where I am a co-founder and the current Associate Director. Prior to his joining the Ancestors, in 2004, he was also President Emeritus and founding member of the international scholarly organization known as the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) where of which I am a charter member.
This has been a brief introduction to the life of Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, one of the founders of the Chicago School of African-Centered Education. His concise perspective and philosophy of African-centered education has informed my own African-centered curriculum philosophy for African American students under the rubric of Sebayeet. All of this knowledge and praise was heaped upon those wise ancient Africans of the Nile Valley and, a century before the classical curriculum began its final revisions in the nineteenth century, this foundational role of ancient Nile Valley Africans at the center of Western education was still generally recognized. (Carruthers, 1995)
"In view of the Western philosophical project of historical and cultural genocide against African peoples, the African-centered curriculum is essential. The first and foremost reason is to restore truth to the curriculum. The falsification of the role of Africa in world history and civilization results not only in a deformation of African history but the history of the world, especially since Africa played such a decisive part in the events that comprise world history. The correction of this mutilation is surely in the interest of humanity, if the truth is at all relevant to humanity." (Ancestor Jacob H. Carruthers. "Black Intellectuals and the crises in education in. Mwalimu J. Shuaa.Ed. (1994)
Readings Recommended by Omni-U Virtual University:
Wright, Bobby E. The Psychopathic Racial Personality.
Woodson, Carter G. Mis-Education of the Negro. Washington, D.C.
"Black History in the Diaspora: Bookman and Jean Jaques Dessalines," Parts 1 & 2, an H3O Art of Life Blog by Charles A. Grantham
"My Sip from the African Deep Well: A Cultural, Spiritual, and Historical Journey", by Yvonne R. Jones, an H3O Art of Life Blog
Carruthers, J.H. “Science and Oppression". The Kemetic Institute.
Bauval, R. & Brophy, T. (2011). Black Genesis: The prehistoric origins of ancient Egypt. Toronto: Bear & Company.
Carruthers, J.H. (1994). Black intellectuals and the crisis in black education. In Mwalimu J.
Shujaa. Ed. (1994). Too much schooling, too little education: A paradox of black life in white societies. Trenton: Africa World Press.
Carruthers, J.H. (1995). Mdw Ntr Divine Speech: A historiographical reflection of African deep thought from the time of the pharaohs to the present. London: Karnak House.
Carruthers, J.H. (1995). Reflections of the history of African education. Illinois School Journal, 75 (1), 25-39.
Carruthers, J.H. (1984). Essays in ancient Egyptian studies. Los Angeles: Timbuktu Publishers.
Carruthers, J.H. (1985). The Irritated Genie: An essay on the Haitian revolution. Chicago: The Kemetic Institute.
Carruthers, J.H. & Karenga, M. (1986). Kemet and the African Worldview: Research, rescue, and restoration. Los Angeles: University of Sankofa Press.
Carruthers, J.H. (1977). Writing for eternity, Black Books Bulletin, 5 (2), 32-35.
Carruthers, J.H. (2002). Diop's instruction. Unpublished manuscript, Kemetic Institute, Chicago, Illinois.
Diop, C.A. (1974). The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. Westport: Lawrence Hill and Company.
Hegel, G.W.F. (1899/1956). The philosophy of history. Mineola: Dover Philosophical Classics.
Johnson, A.G. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Medley, K.W. (2003). We as freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company.
Ravitch, D. (1992). E pluribus plures, Debating P.C. New York: Dell.