By Dr. Conrad Worrill, Chicago Crusader
The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS) was established on September 8, 1966 during the early years of Northeastern Illinois University, which was founded in 1963. Dr. Donald Smith, one of the few Black professors and the first Director of the Center, provided the leadership in conceiving the idea and mobilizing the university community to support this project. However, one former Director of CCICS, the late Dr. Donn Bailey, revealed, “The educational aspirations and demands of the largely Black inner city community in the mid-1960s were so forcefully and compellingly put that one can say that the community sired the Center for Inner City Studies.”
Outstanding educational leaders in the Chicago inner city, such as Dr. Barbara Sizemore, Dr. Anderson Thompson, and grassroots com- munity residents, gave Dr. Smith the support he needed to convince the college that such a project was necessary. Federal funding was granted from the Office of Education that provided the initial support for two years before becoming a permanent part of the university’s academic programs. He then gathered a brilliant staff of inner city educators from Chicago and across the nation, who developed the initial graduate CCICS curriculum. This distinguished group included Dr. Nancy Arnez (the second director of the Center), Dr. Donn Bailey (the third director), Dr. Edward Barnes, and Dr. Sonja Stone (the first Chair of the Department of Inner City Studies Education). Dr. Carol Adams served as the director from 2000-2003 and I, Dr. Conrad Worrill have served as the director since 2003.
The first CCICS program was the federal funded, Experienced Teacher Fellowship Program (ETFP), a Master’s degree program for retraining inner city teachers, who were struggling to understand and serve the communities where they work- ed. The students came from many urban areas throughout the United States. In 1968, this innovative experiment led the College of Education to establish the Department of Inner City Studies Education, with two Master’s degree programs; an M.A. in Inner City Studies Education (ICSE) and an M.Ed. in Inner City Studies. In 1970-71, the Center’s undergraduate program evolved from another federally funded program, the Career Opportunities Program (COP). This program resulted in the full certification of four hundred inner city Teacher Aides, who had virtually sprung from the inner city in the wake of the urban rebellions of the 1960s.
Under the leadership of two brilliant African Centered faculty members, the late Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers and Dr. Anderson Thompson, CCICS endeavored, for over fifty-years to develop a curriculum philosophy and theoretical framework that examine social experience from an African Centered perspective. The rewards of these efforts have been enriching for the academic community world-wide, as well as the inner city community.
Through its curriculum arm, the Department of Inner City Studies Education (now an academic program in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies) CCICS has successfully developed undergraduate and graduate programs. These programs combine Inner City Studies with a minor, Inner City Careers, African Caribbean Studies, experienced and prospective teacher programs, as well as the development of the Mexican/- Caribbean Studies Minor, which has now become a major in Latin and Latin American Studies. Some of these programs led CCICS to the development of other major thrusts. African Caribbean Studies spawned the Kemetic Institute and the establishment of the African Study Tours, which broadened the CCICS curriculum to include on-going international student and faculty participation. Also, the Kemetic Institute sponsors the Teaching About Africa (TAA) Program aimed at providing teaches with curriculum material to be used in all subjects concerning the contributions of African people from ancient times to the present.
The Career Opportunity Program of the early 1970s was the foundation of the ICSE undergraduate program. Similarly, the Inner City Careers Minor has given birth to the collaboration with, and establishment of, a combined major in Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education that leads to a Language Arts Endorsement.
Additionally, in recent years,
CCICS has established the Illinois Transatlantic Slave Trade Commission Project (ITSTC) that conducts ongoing research on the slave trade and its continued impact on African people and the world. The Great Black Music Project (GBMP) is another addition to the vibrant research and programmatic trust of CCICS in preserving the great Black music developed out of this community.
From our base of service to the community, CCICS has become a leader in the educational community. Out of more than 1,000 graduates from the ICSE Master’s degree program, approximately 151 have gone on to earn their Ph.D. An impressive percentage of CCICS undergraduates have obtained their Bachelor’s degree and continued through the ICSE Master’s program. Indeed, many of our graduates have attained high positions in the institutions that serve the inner city from the public schools and other educational institutions as teachers and administrators, to city administration, law enforcement and correctional administration, municipal and circuit court judges, and a variety of social service agencies, both private and public. Thus, the ideas generated at CCICS are now a part of the thinking of many of those who are in leadership positions throughout America.
It is important that we become experts on the trends and developments of the inner city. For those who are interested in pursuing an academic career that deals with the problems and prospects of the inner city from an African Centered perspective, take advantage of this “Academic Goldmine.” Contact the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies for a full orientation on how to become part of this established academic discipline. The Carruthers Center should endure for the next fifty-years by continuing in its established tradition.