Bell, Derrick Albert, Jr.

Bell, Derrick Albert, Jr., 1930–2011, American lawyer, legal scholar, and educator, b. Pittsburgh, Pa., grad. Duquesne Univ. (A.B., 1952), Univ. of Pittsburgh Law School (LL.B., 1957). Known for his lifelong struggle against what he saw as pervasive American racism, he first worked (1957–59) in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department and subsequently (1960–66) oversaw some 300 desegregation cases with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. After briefly teaching at the Univ. of Southern California, Bell was hired (1969) by Harvard Law School and he became (1971) its first tenured African-American professor. He was (1981–85) dean of the Univ. of Oregon's School of Law, but left in protest against the school's refusal to hire an Asian-American professor. In 1986 he returned to Harvard, but he took a leave and then left (1992) over the law school's failure to hire an African-American woman. Bell also was visiting professor of law at New York Univ. from 1990 until his death. His Race, Racism and American Law (1973, 6th ed. 2008), his most influential book, is now a classic law school text. His other books include Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992), Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth (2002), and Silent Covenants: “Brown v. Board of Education” and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform (2004).

See R. Delgado and J. Stefancic, ed., The Derrick Bell Reader (2005).

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