R.I.P. Professor Derrick Bell
October 6, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Derrick Bell, Law Professor and Civil Rights Advocate, dies at 80. Bell was a pioneer of critical race theory and the first tenured black professor at Harvard Law School. Bell was also a lover of gospel music, and hosted an annual gospel choir concert.
posted by likeatoaster (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
His work personally inspired me on numerous occasions, and he will be dearly missed.

posted by likeatoaster at 8:09 PM on October 6, 2011

His short story, Space Traders, influenced me as an undergraduate.

posted by quodlibet at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by cashman at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by goneill at 8:28 PM on October 6, 2011


(damn--i thought all the old racists were supposed to die off first.)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:32 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Met Jewell (his late first wife) once. Lovely people.

posted by Danf at 9:14 PM on October 6, 2011


posted by mattbucher at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2011

Those who have never had the pleasure of hearing Professor Bell speak should click on the two "pioneer" links in the post. We was a calm and loving "radical," and his compassion shines through in those links.

I remember him speaking at Boalt Hall in the early '90s, before an audience of students who were advocating for hiring more minority and women professors. He told the students that if they wanted to see immediate change they should boycott their exams. That would get the attention of the faculty! None of us students had the courage to do that, and I sensed that immediately. It was a moment where I saw how a person with true courage thinks and acts, and where I realized I would fail to live up to that ideal. I'm so glad that I had the chance to see Professor Bell, even though it destroyed some of my own pleasant self-delusions.
posted by ferdydurke at 9:20 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

posted by grimmelm at 9:24 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by liza at 9:46 PM on October 6, 2011

Saw him give a talk once. Very impressive.
posted by bardic at 9:51 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by penduluum at 10:03 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by yeloson at 10:10 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by joe lisboa at 10:11 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by long haired child at 10:13 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:21 PM on October 6, 2011


too bad we do not live in a world where he was as influential as the white guy who died yesterday.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:03 PM on October 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


For his efforts our world is a little more fair. We have more work to do...

Another titan of human dignity and grace gone... how many other nameless advocates for dignity and equality have passed this year alone?
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:20 AM on October 7, 2011

posted by anansi at 4:47 AM on October 7, 2011

He had a great gift for opening minds. It is too bad that his influence did not spread more broadly. His article on Brown v. the Board encapsulates in a nutshell the critical race studies ideas. If you have the time And We Are Not Saved expands upon these themes. The idea that most of the so-called progress in racial equality, especially in the courts, has benefitted whites as much as if not more than blacks, and has benefitted blacks almost exclusively when it also served white interests comes with difficulty to both the traditional conservative and traditional liberal points of view; they present an enormous challenge to the status quo. Prof. Bell has a way of making these ideas seem less radical and more palatable. Some criticize the storytelling he employs as being less academically rigorous. I disagree. Wrapping rigorously researched and supported ideas in a storytelling format which enhances a reader's ability to perceive a point of reference foreign to their personal experience does not lessen its underlying rigor. RIP Prof. Bell. May your ideas have a strong future. The continuing browning of the American experience will help to enlighten us into the future, but Prof. Bell offers an experience for the here and now.
posted by caddis at 4:50 AM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was sorry to hear about this last night. It's been a tough week: Fred Shuttleworth, Derrick Bell. (Steve Jobs, too, although in a different arena.)
posted by OmieWise at 4:54 AM on October 7, 2011

posted by crush-onastick at 6:23 AM on October 7, 2011

An independent thinker with a wry sense of humor and compassion for all who were affected by racism.

posted by Currer Belfry at 6:42 AM on October 7, 2011

The website professorderrickbell.com has been built as a tribute, and well worth the browse.
posted by likeatoaster at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2011

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