Derrick Bell : biography
Derrick Albert Bell, Jr. (November 6, 1930 – October 5, 2011) was the first tenured African-American Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and is largely credited as one of the originators of critical race theory. He was a Visiting Professor at New York University School of Law NYU Law. 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012 from 1991 until his death.[https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?personID=19776 Derrick A. Bell. Visiting Professor of Law (In Memoriam).] NYU Law. 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012. He was also a former Dean of the University of Oregon School of Law. University of Oregon. Oregon Law. October 7, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
On October 5, 2011, Bell died from carcinoid cancer at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, at the age of 80. " National Public Radio October 7, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012 Harvard Law School. October 6, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012. Washington Post. 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012 At the time, the Associated Press reported: "The dean at NYU, Richard Revesz, said, 'For more than 20 years, the law school community has been profoundly shaped by Derrick's unwavering passion for civil rights and community justice, and his leadership as a scholar, teacher, and activist.'" AP 2011. Legacy.com 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2012
Bell has been memorialized at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with the Derrick A. Bell Constitutional Law Commons which was opened on March 20, 2013 in the school's Barco Law Library. Bell was also honored with the renaming of the school's community law clinic that provides legal assistance to local low-income residents to the Derrick Bell Community Legal Clinic. Two fellowship positions within the school are also named for Bell.
Bell also wrote science fiction short stories, including "The Space Traders", a story in which white Americans trade black Americans to space aliens in order to pay off the national debt and receive advanced technology. The story was adapted for television in 1994 by director Reginald Hudlin and writer Trey Ellis. It aired on HBO as the leading segment of a three-part anthology entitled Cosmic Slop, which focused on minority-centric Science Fiction.
Harvard Law School
In 1969, with the help of protests from black Harvard Law School students for a minority faculty member, Bell was hired to teach there. At Harvard, Bell established a new course in civil rights law, published a celebrated case book, Race, Racism and American Law, and produced a steady stream of law review articles. But Bell, who became the first black tenured professor in Harvard Law School's history in 1971, polarized others with his accusations of racism, which some saw as principles and others as too quick to accuse others of bigotry.
Protests over faculty diversity
In 1980, he started a five-year tenure as dean of the University of Oregon School of Law, interrupted by his resignation after an Asian-American woman he had chosen to join the faculty was refused by the university.
Returning to Harvard in 1986, after a year-long stint at Stanford University, Bell staged a five-day sit-in in his office to protest the school's failure to grant tenure to two professors on staff, both of whose work promoted critical race theory. The sit-in was widely supported by students, but divided the faculty, as Harvard administrators claimed the professors were denied tenure for substandard scholarship and teaching.
In 1990, Harvard had 60 tenured professors. Three of these were black men, and five of them were women, but there were no black women among them, a dearth Bell decided to protest with an unpaid leave of absence. Students supported the move which critics found "counterproductive", while Harvard administrators cited a lack of qualified candidates, defending that they had taken great strides in the previous decade to bring women and black people onto the faculty. The story of his protest is detailed in his book Confronting Authority.
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