In Memoriam: Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930-2011)

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.

Related Articles


  1. I first heard of professor Bell in the late 1980’s and the book that to me made the greatest impression on my understanding of law and race was” And we are not saved” which I believe is one of his most thoughtful and insightful books.

  2. I first became acquainted with Professor Bell’s writings while taking a Black Psychology course in undergraduate school. We have lost a pioneer and a great legal scholar. Rest in peace, Brother Bell.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Alcorn State University Announces Unique STEM-Focused MBA Degree Program

The new STEM-MBA program at Alcorn State, the first of its kind in the state of Mississippi, will prepare students to become business leaders in STEM industries through courses on foundational STEM and business concepts, as well as data analysis and strategic decision-making.

Five Black Women Who Have Been Appointed to Dean Positions at Universities Across the United States

Here is this week’s roundup of African Americans who have been appointed to dean positions at universities throughout the United States. If you have news for our appointments section, please email the information to

PNC Partners With Howard University to Empower Black Entrepreneurship

The Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship aims to support and educate Black entrepreneurs from across the country. The collaborative initiative includes three other HBCU partners: Morgan State University, Clark Atlanta University, and Texas Southern University.

Saida Grundy Wins Race, Gender, and Class Book Award From the American Sociology Association

Dr. Grundy's book, Respectable: Politics and Paradox in Making the Morehouse Man, explores the culture and experiences of graduates from Morehouse College in Atlanta, the country's only historically Black college for men.

Featured Jobs