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

Pew Research Center Provides Insight into Share of Black-Owned Businesses in the United States

Through analyzing data from the United States Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation, the Pew Research Center found that Black-owned businesses make up 3 percent of companies and earn 1 percent of gross revenue in the United States.

Martin Lemellle Appointed the Eleventh President of Grambling State University

Dr. Martin Lemelle has been serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Study Finds Elementary School Teachers More Likely to Discipline Black Boys than White Peers

“It is important to understand how race and racism shape children’s earliest school experiences,” wrote study author, Dr. Calvin Zimmerman. “Even for students as young as 6 years old, schools perpetuate existing social and educational inequalities.”

Johnnetta Betsch Cole Appointed President-In-Residence of the United Negro College Fund Capital Campaign

“With her immense expertise and passion for education, Dr. Cole will play a pivotal role in advancing the goals of our capital campaign and UNCF’s mission of ensuring equal access to higher education for underrepresented students of color,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund.

Featured Jobs