Georgia State Professor Asa Hilliard Dies in Egypt

About 200 members of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) gathered Tuesday morning in Luxor, Egypt, at the tomb of Thutmose IV to commemorate the passing of one of the organization’s founders, the renowned multi-faceted scholar — Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III.

Hilliard died Sunday in Cairo, Egypt, 10 days shy of his 74th birthday. The cause of death has not been confirmed, but one source says that he died of malaria, which he contracted in Ghana where he was enstooled as a king and another says that he was sick before he left the United States.

Whatever the cause of his death, Hilliard joined the pantheon of ancestors doing what he loved — teaching about the contributions of ancient Egypt to human civilization, in a place that he loved — the Nile Valley. He will also leave a legacy as the celebrated conductor of the modern African-centered educational movement. 

“There is no educational scholar who has impacted the way we educate young people more than Dr. Asa Hilliard,” says Molefi Asante, a professor of African-American Studies at Temple University, who just returned from Nigeria to the news. “Asa was a multidisciplinary and multitalented intellectual. He has inspired generations to see ancient Egypt as the classical civilization of the Black World. I have known him for more than 35 years and during that time he has been a lightening rod for social, educational, and political transformation.”


Hilliard,
a teacher, historian, educational consultant, historian and activist, has produced numerous articles and technical papers on African-centered pedagogy, curricula, cultural styles, public policy, child growth and development and African history. He has also consulted with various school districts, universities and government agencies on those topics.    

Hilliard, the founding member of the National Black Child Development Institute, has written and co-written several books, including Sba the Reawakening of the African Mind, The Maroon Within Us: Selected Essays on African American Community Socialization and The Teachings of Ptahhotep.

Born in Galveston, Texas, in 1933, Hilliard attended the University of Denver where he earned his bachelor’s and Ed.D. in educational psychology and a master’s in counseling. Hilliard went on to teach in Denver’s public schools and serve on the faculty at San Francisco State University for 18 years. From 1980, until his death, Hilliard had been the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University in Atlanta, with joint appointments in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education.

In addition to being an integral part of the African-centered educational community and the Black Studies family, Hilliard was a vital constituent of Black Atlanta. He was the chairman of the programs committee of the highly influential 100 Black Men of Atlanta Inc.

The organization is mourning his death, issuing a statement that in part says: “Dr. Hilliard served as a formidable catalyst for social change as well as a beacon for the preservation and advocacy of African cultures throughout the world. His impact upon our organization, its members and the communities we serve has been immeasurable. The nation has experienced a significant loss.”

Hilliard’s final public lecture was on Aug. 7.  He was the speaker for the opening plenary session in Egypt for ASCAC’s 24th Annual Ancient Kemetic Studies Conference.  His lecture was titled: “From Sah, Spdt, Spd to the Drinking Gourd: ASCAC, KMT and Pan Africanism Not to Perish.”

Dr. Greg Carr, an executive board member of ASCAC who attended the lecture, says Hilliard did not appear to be his normal energetic self. 

However, he still managed to dig down deep and give a powerful lesson about the importance of “carrying ourselves with a deep historical consciousness,” says Carr, an associate professor of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. “He implored us to raise our consciousness and enter the world as historical beings. He consistently emphasized that we pursue intellectual excellence, really be responsible to our communities and teach our children how to explore and engage.”

The next day — Aug. 8 — ASCAC held a banquet where the preeminent Black psychologist Dr. Na’im Akbar of Florida State University gave the conference’s keynote speech. Hilliard, who was on the main dais, had to be escorted out during Akbar’s speech because he was so ill.

“That’s the last time he appeared publicly,” Carr says.

Hilliard flew to Cairo and over the next four days his conditioned worsened until he passed away on Sunday. Hilliard and his wife, Patsy Jo, have four children.

On Tuesday, ASCAC conducted a ritual in the Valley of the Kings for Hilliard —who was the organization’s first international vice president. It was at the tomb of Thutmose IV, who was the eighth pharaoh during the 18th Egyptian dynasty.

“We did a libation, a ritual for him of ancestor return in the Valley of the Kings,” says Carr, in a telephone interview from Luxor. “In that ritual we noted that Asa Hilliard was in so many ways the founder of the modern African-centered education movement. He believed in the natural genius of African children and he believed in the purpose and function of education as it relates to developing our people. We like to refer to him in ASCAC as our Ptah-Hotep because in so many ways he was our wise instructor.”

 

–Ibram Rogers

 

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