Professor Derrick Bell, a legal scholar who was a pioneer of critical race theory and a frequent contributor to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, has died from cancer in New York City. He was 80 years old.
A native of Pittsburgh, Bell was a graduate of Duquesne University. He earned his law degree at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the only black student. After working for the U.S. Justice Department and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, in 1969 Bell was hired to the faculty at Harvard Law School.
After a five-year stint as dean of the law school at the University of Oregon in the early 1980s, Bell returned to Harvard in 1986. In 1990, he took an unpaid leave of absence from his faculty position in protest of the fact that the law school had no women of color on its faculty. The school refused to extend his leave and Professor Bell became a visiting professor of law at New York University, a position he held until his death.
Professor Bell was the author of nine books including Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism and Race, Racism and American Law.