Derrick A. Bell, Jr. A man of principle in a sea of explicit complicity.
His published works include:
- Afrolantica Legacies. Third World Press, 1998.
- Race, Racism and American Law. 3rd edition. Little Brown & Co., 1992.
- Constitutional Conflicts. Anderson Press, April 1997.
- And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice. Basic Books, 1992.
- Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protestor. Beacon Press, 1996.
- Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. Basic Books, 1992.
- Gospel Choirs. Basic Books, 1996.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bell grew up in a section of the Hill District known as Sugar Top. In 1952, he received his undergraduate degree from Duquesne University. He earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1957. His jovial manner combined with his aggressive intellect put him in such notable positions as: Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Deputy Director of the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
In 1971, he became the first black law professor at Harvard Law School. In 1992, when Bell refused to end his two year unpaid leave of absence to protest about the absence of minority women law faculty, Harvard dismissed him. Harvard really should have seen this coming. In 1980, he left Harvard for five years to accept the deanship at the Oregon Law School. Bell resigned when the faculty insisted that he not offer a faculty position to an Asian American woman. This happened after an extended search which had placed her third on the list. The top two candidates (both white males) declined the position. The faculty wanted to reopen the search rather than extend an offer to the Asian American woman. Currently, he teaches lay at New York University. In 1985, he won the Teacher of the Year Award by Society of American Law Schools.
Not a boring fact thumping writer, he combines solid data with parables and allegories to make that necessary spoon full of sugar for the potent medicine he prescribes for our sick society. He uses his fictional character, Geneva Crenshaw to say all of the things he, as a writer, does not feel he can suggest with impunity. His story "Space Traders" which is the last chapter of Faces at the Bottom of the Well was produced as an HBO movie in 1994. The movie starred Robert Guillaume.
Bell is one of my favorite people in the world. A genuine far out kind of dude. He loves science fiction. He gave me my first cat when I was 10. It was a seal-point Siamese kitten. Being young and silly, I named her Cleopatra.