Raised in Philadelphia, Marc Lamont Hill holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania. From 2005-2009 he was an Assistant Professor of Urban Education and American Studies at Temple University. In the fall of 2009 he became an Associate Professor of Education and Anthropology at Columbia University's Teachers College; he also holds an affiliated faculty appointment at Columbia’s Institute for Research in African American Studies. From 2007-2009 Hill was a frequent guest commentator on the Fox News Channel, which then hired him in the fall of 2009 as a paid “analyst” at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000 per year. A self-described "revolutionary," Hill professes to have once belonged to an organization known as the Ansaaru Allah Community, an Islamic sect whose doctrines resemble those of the Nation of Islam. Hill blogs regularly at TheRoot.com and MarcLamontHill.com. By his own account, he is an expert on “hip-hop culture,” i.e., rap music. He is the author of the 2009 book Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity.
Hill works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Reform Project (DRP), which contends that the criminal-justice system’s use of drug informants is riddled with corruption. “Too often,” says the DRP, “informants are pressured into lying at the expense of innocent people in order to save their own skin.” Notably, the ACLU favors the legalization of all drugs.
In 2006, when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro failed to attend a national celebration of his 80th birthday (and news reports rumored that he was ill), a concerned Dr. Hill wrote in his blog:
“El Comandante was not in attendance. While a no-show at this type of event is curious for any leader, it is unthinkable for Fidel, who thrives on such moments. In fact, the only thing that could keep him away is the very thing that scares me the most: Fidel was too sick to attend."
In a 2007 appearance on Fox News’ O'Reilly Factor, Hill defended professor Ward Churchill, who had recently been fired from his job at the University of Colorado. Churchill was the author of a post-9/11 essay asserting that the victims who had died in the World Trade Center were akin to "little Eichmanns" [a reference to Adolf Eichmann, "architect of the Holocaust"] who, as a consequence of their status as faceless cogs in America's allegedly destructive capitalist economy, had essentially brought the terrorist attacks upon themselves. The controversy that resulted from that essay led to an investigation which ultimately revealed Churchill to be a plagiarist unqualified to teach in his specialty. Said Hill about Churchill’s firing:
“This is a really sad day for American academic life and American public life. Ward Churchill should not have been fired. This has been about free speech from the beginning…. A witch hunt began the moment that he made those comments about the 9/11 victims. And regardless of what we think about his comments, he has the right to make them. In fact, he has the responsibility to make them as an academic if he believes them to be true … and if he can empirically substantiate them, and I think he’s done that…. When you look at his ‘Little Eichmann’ comment, he’s explained this. He was referring to Hannah Arendt, on of the great theorists of our time, in which he was saying that often times, the big bad person that you think is this crazy killer is actually an ordinary technocrat, someone in a building who pushes buttons, who does things without any sort of sensibility about how bad they are. And he’s saying that many times the people who were in that building may have been advancing an American global financial empire without any thinking about it. And I don’t necessarily agree that we should be indifferent to their suffering. I happen to be a little more sympathetic to the victims and their families than Ward Churchill is, but he certainly had a valid point, number one, and number two he has a right to say it and we have to defend that. …”
When Bill O’Reilly subsequently took issue with what he called Churchill's “Little Nazis”comment, Hill replied: “He [Churchill] didn’t say Little Nazis … Not Little Nazis, Little Eichmanns…. That’s different than calling them Nazis. He added context and texture to it.” Hill then proceeded to say that academia “is filled with … people who, through their scholarship, reinforce notions of white supremacism, of racism, of sexism, of homophobia.” As an example of such a figure, he cited Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve.
In January 2008 Hill took exception to President George W. Bush’s characterization, during an interview, of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Said Bush (about Obama):
“He’s an attractive guy. He’s articulate. I’ve been impressed with him when I’ve seen him in person. But he’s got a long way to go to be President.”
In Hill’s estimation, Bush’s assessment was tinged with racism:
“Unfortunately when [the word] ‘articulate’ is used by white people toward black people, it’s often accompanied by a sense of bewilderment and surprise; i.e., 'I’m surprised that you’re able to speak that well.' Coming from someone like President Bush in particular, it’s a bit curious. He’s the same person who said that he rails against the soft bigotry of low expectations. And then he hurls such a lowball compliment at Barack Obama. To me, if Barack Obama could not speak articulately, if he could not express his ideas, that would be noteworthy…. The fact of the matter is we live in a world where black intelligence is called into question even at the highest levels.”
In February 2008 Hill denounced "the triple threat of global racism, poverty, and militarism" that he saw as by-products of American domestic and foreign policies. He then lamented that presidential candidate Obama, should he ultimately win the presidency, might not turn out to be "the revolutionary outsider that he's portrayed to be." Complained Hill: "Obama has been conspicuously silent on topics such as the prison-industrial complex, the Zionist occupation of Palestine, and the economic underdevelopment of Africa."
In one O’Reilly Factor appearance in March 2009, Hill told host Bill O’Reilly that President Obama’s redistributive economic policies would help most Americans: “[F]or the last 20 years, we've had wealth redistribution. It's just gone from the middle class and the poor to the rich.”
That same month, Hill defended a group of black militants from the Uhuru Movement, an African socialist organization that seeks to restore "Black Power in the 21st Century" and to "destroy imperialism and liberate Africa and her children dispersed throughout the world." The aforementioned militants were holding a vigil in honor of the late Lovelle Mixon, a career criminal who had murdered four Oakland, California police officers before being killed himself in a shootout with police. According to Hill, this case of "white officers" and "black bodies" had stoked the protesters’ long-festering resentments toward what they perceived to be “a repressive and oppressive police state” where “police terrorism” was commonplace. The demonstrators, said Hill, understood that Mixon’s “fundamental humanity” was no less authentic than that of the officers whom he had killed.
Until late September 2009, Hill’s "Twitter" webpage was wallpapered with the image of one of his heroes, Assata Shakur — a fugitive (formerly known as Joanne Chesimard) convicted of the 1973 execution-style murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster. In 1979 Shakur, with help from members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army (BLA), escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she has been given political asylum ever since by Fidel and Raul Castro. Though the FBI is currently offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Shakur’s apprehension, Hill has referred to the fugitive as “an American hero and freedom fighter”; he has vowed to “always stand next to her.”
Also in September of 2009, Hill's website featured an article, under Hill's own photo and byline, which said:
"Fortunately, with the help of her comrades and the ancestors, Assata was able to escape the belly of the beast in 1979 and emerge safely in Cuba, where she's been granted protection as a political prisoner. Despite the relentless efforts of the federal and state [U.S.] government, she remains safe in one of the last remaining palenques [runaway locations where Africans can find safe haven] on Earth." [The term “ancestors,” which Hill has often used to refer to important black historical figures, is presumably a reference to members of the BLA.]
Professing his belief in Assata Shakur’s innocence, Hill called the cop-killer "one of the great heroes in the Black Freedom Struggle" and proclaimed: "Mother Assata, I am eternally grateful for your life and example. I give thanks to the ancestors for you. I pray for your continued protection and pledge to support you and our people until I die.” Hill signed his tribute: “In Beautiful Struggle, Marc.”
In September 2009, when President Obama’s green jobs czar Van Jones was forced to resign amid controversy over his longstanding communist ties and anti-American views, Hill defended Jones, saying:
"[I]t’s so disappointing that the Obama administration didn't fight for Van Jones. They put him up there. They hired the guy. And then throw him under the bus when it's politically expedient. It's very disappointing."
Hill has characterized the late black separatist and racist Khalid Abdul Muhammad (who died of a brain aneurysm in 2001) as a “mentor, teacher, and revolutionary hero” who, contrary to “media attempts to portray him as a hate monger,” was most notable for his “profound love for Black people.” “I love you and miss you Dr. Khallid," Hill wrote on his website. Contending that Muhammad’s death “was an assassination rather than an accident,” Hill declared proudly, "I believe that my work also follows in the tradition of Dr. Khallid's revolutionary struggle for Black liberation."
On his MySpace webpage, Hill identified Assata Shakur, Fidel Castro, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal as people whom he would like to meet personally.
In September 2009 Hill introduced Mumia, who had previously been an occasional guest blogger on Hill’s website, as a new regular contributor to the site:
“I am thrilled to announce that Mumia Abu-Jamal has joined the Barbershop as a weekly contributor!! His column, ‘Live From Death Row,’ will appear every Wednesday starting next week.”
Hill described Mumia as “one of the world’s most celebrated journalists, freedom fighters, and political prisoners” who, though “wrongfully incarcerated since 1981 for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner,” had nonetheless “devoted his life to Black liberation” and had “generated international support for his own case, which has been one of the most glaring and repugnant reflections of the criminal (in)justice system.” “Welcome Brother Mumia!!!!” Hill said.
In late September and early October of 2009, a number of conservative bloggers -- expressing opposition to Fox News’ decision to hire a paid analyst who held such radical views -- drew public attention to Hill’s affiliations and past statements. In response, the professor quickly removed the pictures of Assata Shakur from the background of his Twitter webpage and replaced them with photos of boxing great Muhammad Ali.
In early October 2009 Hill commented on the case of film director Roman Polanski, who had recently been arrested by Swiss police in connection to a crime he had committed three decades earlier -- the rape and sodmization of a 13-year-old girl (after which he fled to Europe). Hill saw Polanski’s story as a testament to America’s deep-seated sexism, classism, and racism:
“Isn’t it safe to say that Roman Polanski has only been free all these years because he’s white? First and foremost, we live in a society that doesn’t take the protection of female bodies seriously. Part of the reason why 60 percent of sexual offenses against women go unreported is because of the indifference that many Americans, both men and women, have to rape. Another issue is class, as poor people rarely have the legal means or financial opportunity to escape in the manner that Polanksi did. Another issue is the power of celebrity, which allows many people to see Polanski as a world-class director rather than a child rapist. Is race a factor as well? Of course. After all, it’s safe to say that, in the exact same circumstances, Spike Lee would have been extradited decades ago. Still, race is not the biggest factor.”
In the fall of 2009 Hill came to the defense of employees at four separate ACORN offices who had been secretly videotaped counseling undercover journalists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles -- who were posing as a pimp and a prostitute -- on how the pair could evade the law and engage successfully in tax fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, and the establishment of an underage prostitution ring staffed by illegal aliens. Hill falsely told Fox News that the undercover journalists had visited “dozens, if not hundreds” of ACORN offices and were able to find unethical employees in only four of them. But the website BigGovernment.com, which worked closely with O’Keefe and Giles, corrected him:
“This is not true. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles did not go to ‘hundreds of ACORN offices’ to acquire material for this project. They went to the four offices that were shown in the series of videos.… The accusations by Marc Lamont Hill are completely false.”
On his publicly available Curriculum Vitae, Hill proudly includes a lecture on "The Importance of Ideological Training in the New Millenium (sic)," which he delivered at the Polymathematic University in Pennsylvania -- a self-described "revolutionary center for the training and development of professional revolutionaries." The event was sponsored by the “Poor Righteous Communist Party,” a Maoist group that seeks to develop “an ever glorious Righteous Communism.”
On October 16, 2009, Fox News Channel fired Hill from his analyst post as a result of shareholder concerns about his “reputation of defending cop killers and racists.”
On Columbus Day 2012, Hill published an op-ed in which he listed the “15 most overrated white people.” Wrote Hill:
“Today, our nation engages in one of its most bizarre cultural rituals: the celebration of Columbus Day as a national holiday. Although history proves that Christopher Columbus was an immoral treasure hunter who merely stumbled upon a region that had already been ‘discovered’ by indigenous non-whites, we continue to praise the vicious conquistador as a hero. To honor the true spirit of Columbus Day, I have created my own list of overrated white people. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, as there are countless other White people who are equally underwhelming.”
Some excerpts from the list include the following:
- Elvis Presley - "Despite being a cheap facsimile of Little Richard, he is still known as the 'King of Rock 'n Roll.' Only in America..."
- Ronald Reagan - "How easily we forget that Reagan was largely responsible for shutting down mental hospitals, bloating the military, shrinking benefits for the needy, sparking mass incarceration ..."
- Justin Bieber - "Sure, the kid can sing and dance. But is he better than dozens of black R&B singers? Nope."
- Donald Trump - "The Donald was always obnoxious, but he dipped to new lows this year by jumping on the Birther train. But that alone doesn't make him overrated. Just racist and dumb."
- Tim Tebow - "Tebow's celebrity -- despite the fact that he couldn't beat out mediocre Mark Sanchez for a starting spot -- proves an old football axiom: Black men throw interceptions; White men are 'gunslingers.'"
- William Shakespeare - "... [W]e ignore the fact that many aspects of Shakespeare's work -- such as the writing in Hamlet or the generally narrow range of female roles in his plays -- just aren't that awesome."
- Babe Ruth - "It may be cliché to say, but there's little doubt that Ruth would have lower career numbers if he had been forced to face Satchel Paige and his peers on a regular basis."
- The Whole NHL (except Wayne Simmonds) - [Note: Simmonds is one of the few black players in the National Hockey League.]
- Eminem - "[T]he 'genius' and 'greatest of all time' labels are too quickly attached to Em at the expense of more significant old school rappers like Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, as well as contemporaries like Black Thought, Kool Keith, Jean Grae and Pharoah Monche."
- Sarah Palin - "Despite her lack of knowledge of policy or strategy, Palin is still a go-to pundit on conservative media outlets. No one destroys the myth of white supremacy more effectively than Sarah Palin."
Four months later, Hill made some controversial remarks regarding Christopher Dorner, an African American who had served as a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer from 2007 until he was terminated for poor performance in 2008. Some background: In early February 2013 Dorner vowed to kill as many LAPD officers as possible. He then proceeded to murder one police officer as well as an LAPD captain's daughter and her fiancee. Prior to embarking on his killing spree, Dorner released a lengthy, rambling manifesto complaining about the LAPD's allegedly rampant racism and brutality, and lauding a number of (mostly) leftists such as Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Matthews, Soledad O'Brien, Wolf Blitzer, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper. On February 13, Dorner shot and killed himself after police had traced him to a mountain cabin in Angelus Oaks, California.
Against this backdrop, Hill, shortly after Dorner's death, said the following:
“This has been an important conversation that we’ve had about police brutality, about police corruption, about state violence. They were even talking about making him the first domestic drone target. This is serious business here.... And as far as Dorner himself goes, he’s been like a real life superhero to many people. Now don't get me wrong. What he did was awful, killing innocent people was bad, but when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission here. And many people aren't rooting for him to kill innocent people. They are rooting for somebody who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching Django Unchained in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”
Hill was incensed by an August 2014 incident where Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown in an altercation that occurred just minutes after Brown had perpetrated a strong-armed robbery of a local convenience store. Brown's death set off a massive wave of protests and riots in Ferguson, and eventually grew into a national movement denouncing an alleged epidemic of police brutality against African Americans. (For details about the case, click here.) Hill used his Twitter account to state: “A Black man in America is killed every 28 hours by police or vigilantes. THAT, not rioting, is domestic terrorism…” Michael Brown, added Hill, was “yet another teenager executed for being young, black, and outside.”
On April 27, 2015—while the city of Baltimore was being overrun by riots in the aftermath of unsubstantiated allegations that white police officers had brutalized and killed a local black criminal named Freddie Gray—Hill defended the rioters, saying their “rebellion” was an understandable reaction to many years of abuse and oppression:
“No, there shouldn’t be calm tonight. Black people are dying in the streets. They’ve been dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries. I think there can be resistance to oppression and when resistance occurs, you can't circumscribe resistance. You can’t schedule a planned resistance. You can't tell people where to die in, where to resist, how to resist and how to protest. Now, I think there should be an ethics attached to this, but we have to watch our own ethics and be careful not to get more upset about the destruction of property than the destruction of black bodies and that seems to be to me—to me what's happening over the last few hours and that’s very troublesome to me.
“We also have to be very careful about the language we use to talk about this. I'm not calling these people rioters. I'm calling these uprisings and I think it's an important distinction to make. This is not a riot. There have been uprisings in major cities and smaller cities around this country for the last year because of the violence against black female and male bodies forever and I think that’s what important here.... We can't ignore the fact that the city is burning, but we need to be talking about why it's burning and not romanticize peace and not romanticize marching as the only way to function. I'm not saying we should be hurting, I’m not saying we should be killing people, but we do have to understand that resistance looks different ways to different people and part of what it means to say black lives matter, is to assert our right to have rage—righteous rage, righteous indignation in the face of state violence and extrajudicial killing. Freddie Gray is dead. That's why the city is burning and let’s make that clear. It's not burning because of these protesters. The city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray and that’s a distinction we have to make....
“I'm not saying we should see the destruction of black communities as positive. I'm saying that we can't have too narrow a perception of what the destruction of black communities mean and it seems we exhausted more of our moral outrage tonight and not the 364 days before tonight. I think we should be strategic in how we riot.... What I’m saying is we can’t pathologize people who, after decades and centuries of police terrorism, have decided to respond in this way and when we use the language of thugs, when we use the language of riots, we make it seem as if it’s this pathological, dysfunctional, counter-productive [phenomenon].”