The late Derrick Bell to be honored by AALS

Professor Derrick Bell the renowned law professor and civil rights lawyer, an originator of critical race theory.

Derrick A. Bell, the renowned law professor, and civil rights lawyer will be honored posthumously by The American Association of Law Schools with the 2013 AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education.

Bell a 1957 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law worked as a government lawyer and as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He began his career in academia by joining Harvard Law School as a lecturer. Eventually he would make history by becoming the first African-American professor granted tenure by the law school. In 1980 he was appointed dean of the University of Oregon Law School, but left in protest over denial of tenure to a woman of color, as noted in his official biography on his website. Bell then returned to Harvard for a second stint. After leaving Harvard to protest that school’s lack of faculty diversity he served as a Visiting Professor at NYU Law.

He made two notable and lasting contributions to academia. First, Bell is known as an originator of the idea of critical race theory. Second, he is respected for his non-traditional teaching method which some academics now seek to emulate called known as participatory learning {PDF}.

Outside of the classroom bell was a respected writer and commentator. He authored nine books including Shade of Brown: New Perspectives on School Desegregation, And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice , and Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform.


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