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Derrick A. Bell, Jr.

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Information about Derrick A. Bell, Jr.

Profile image of Derrick A. Bell, Jr.

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Law Professor
Civil Rights Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Fall Colors
Favorite Food:
Oats
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Woodstock, New York
Favorite Quote:
My Goodness.

Birthplace

Born:
11/16/1930
Birth Location:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Law Professor
Civil Rights Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Fall Colors
Favorite Food:
Oats
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Woodstock, New York
Favorite Quote:
My Goodness.

Birthplace

Born:
11/16/1930
Birth Location:
Pittsburgh
See how Derrick A. Bell, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Derrick Albert Bell, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 6, 1930. Bell was offered a scholarship to Lincoln University but was unable to attend because he did not receive enough financial aid. Becoming the first member of his family to go to college, Bell chose to attend Duquesne University, earning his A.B. in 1952.

While attending Duquesne University, Bell joined the ROTC, and following his graduation, went to Korea as part of the U.S. Air Force. Returning from the war in 1954, Bell attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School, earning an L.L.B. in 1957. Bell was hired by the U.S. Justice Department after graduation, but left in 1959 over his refusal to terminate his involvement with the NAACP; subsequently, Thurgood Marshall recruited him to join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where he oversaw three hundred school desegregation cases. In 1966, Bell was named deputy director of civil rights at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, before becoming a teacher at USC law school and director of USC's Western Center on Law and Poverty in 1968.

In 1971, Bell became the first African American to become a tenured professor at Harvard Law School; there he established a course in civil rights law and wrote Race, Racism and American Law, which today is a standard textbook in law schools around the country. Leaving Harvard, Bell became the first African American dean of the University of Oregon Law School, and in 1985, he resigned in protest after the university directed him not to hire an Asian American candidate for a faculty position. Returning to Harvard Law School, Bell would again resign in protest in 1992 over the school’s failure to hire and offer tenure to minority women.

In addition to his work in the classroom, Bell was an acclaimed author, having written numerous books, most notably his series featuring fictional civil rights leader Geneva Crenshaw, including And We Are Not Saved and Faces at the Bottom of the Well. In 2002, Bell wrote Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth, which contained his thoughts on achieving success while maintaining integrity. Most recently, Bell authored Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform. Bell had been the recipient of numerous honors and awards; his later work included serving as a visiting professor of law at the New York University School of Law.

Derrick Bell passed away on October 5, 2011 at age 80.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Derrick A. Bell, Jr.'s interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. remembers his maternal uncles
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his parents' elopement in 1930
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his father's successful career and business
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes the sights and sounds of growing up
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his personality and interests as a young boy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his experience in elementary and middle school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his experience at Camp James Weldon Johnson
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon his role models as a young boy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the need for work ethics and role models
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his experience at Schenley High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his social life in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon his philosophy for disciplining children
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. remembers attending Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his first wife's career aspirations
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls attending Pittsburgh's Duquesne University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his deployment to the Korean War
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes marrying his first wife, Jewel Hairston Bell
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his marriage to Jewel Hairston Bell
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls being in the Civil Air Patrol in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his experience on U.S. Air Force bases in the South
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his service in the Korean War
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his wife, Jewel Hairston Bell's insight
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his initial interest in civil rights law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes being an officer of the guard in Korea
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls law school and his job prospects thereafter
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls resigning from the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls being recruited to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund by Thurgood Marshall
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes the defense team for the Greensboro sit-ins
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls school desegregation in Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his colleagues at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the desegregation of schools in the South
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls Medgar Evers' murder in Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the consequences of school integration
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. considers alternatives to school integration
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the political psychology behind civil rights policy, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the political psychology behind civil rights policy, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls incidents from school desegregation in the South
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the challenges facing the black community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon the 2004 presidential election
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his decision to teach at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes earning tenure at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. talks about his books
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes the Hayes-Tilden Compromise
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his book's adaptation into a TV series
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his characters in 'Faces at the Bottom of the Well' and 'Gospel Choirs'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his move to the University of Oregon School of Law
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his deanship at the University of Oregon
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls his wife's battle with breast cancer
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. recalls teaching civil rights at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his experience at New York University School of Law
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes HistoryMaker Lani Guinier
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon African American Republican leadership
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon his life and career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes his parents' reaction to his career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Derrick A. Bell, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered