Letter Honoring Derrick Bell

AN OPEN LETTER FROM LAW PROFESSORS AND LAWYERS IN SUPPORT OF PROFESSOR DERRICK BELL

 

March 28, 2012

As lawyers and law professors whose work and lives have been enriched by the late Professor Derrick A. Bell, Jr., we add our voices to the many who have paid tribute to him since his passing in October 2011.

Professor Bell’s contributions as a civil rights attorney, prolific legal scholar, and dedicated teacher have been noted in memorials held across the country.  Born in 1930, Derrick Bell was the first in his family to attend college.  After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh law school, where he was the only African-American student in his class and was elected as an associate editor-in-chief of the Law Review.

Throughout his career, Professor Bell labored to break race and gender barriers that remain pervasive in American society.  In the late 1950’s, Derrick Bell became one of the few Black attorneys at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, but was forced out because he refused to give up his membership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  He was later hired by Thurgood Marshall and spent six years with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, overseeing hundreds of desegregation cases.

In 1969, Derrick Bell was hired by Harvard Law School and in 1971 he became Harvard’s first tenured Black law professor.   As one of the first Black deans of a U.S. law school, from 1980-1986 he served as Dean of the University of Oregon Law School, a position from which he resigned because the faculty refused to hire an Asian-American woman.  Upon returning to Harvard Law School, Professor Bell supported the student protests over the law school’s lack of African-American women faculty, eventually leaving Harvard for that reason.  His dignified protest and personal sacrifice made the need to integrate legal education a national issue and changed the face of the legal academy and the law school classroom to include people of color.  For the next two decades, until his death, he continued to write and teach at New York University School of Law.

Professor Bell was passionate and creative in the classroom, an energetic and devoted teacher and mentor through the last weeks of his life.  As New York University School of Law Dean Richard Revesz wrote in his recent tribute, “Derrick instilled in his students a deep sense of professional and ethical responsibility and encouraged them to confront complex issues of race and difference.”  Professor Bell authored Race, Racism and American Law, a popular law school textbook now in its sixth edition, and many other groundbreaking books and articles.  His unflinching articulation of the intertwining of race and law in American history—as well as his recognition of the importance of incorporating lived experience into legal scholarship—laid the foundation for the now widely-taught subject of critical race theory. His creative use of narratives, such as his allegories, created opportunities for the cultivation of dissent through the airing and sharing of differing experiences and views.

Professor Bell was an advocate for women’s rights, gay rights, and disability rights long before these were popular causes.  Most notably, perhaps, Professor Bell did all of this with great love.  He was a gentle, soft-spoken, deeply spiritual man who showed us that we retain our humanity through our relationships with each other, even those with whom we disagree.   He not only stood on principle and spoke the truth as he saw it, but encouraged everyone to speak his or her truth.  And he would support and defend those who were attacked for acting with the courage of their convictions.   Professor Bell was also a committed family man – a devoted husband and proud father of three sons.  He mentored and embraced hundreds of others, from all walks of life.

In his honor, we too act on the courage of our convictions.  We invite lawyers and law professors throughout the nation to sign this Open Letter in support of Professor Bell’s legacy as a highly respected colleague, advocate and mentor.  We disavow any efforts to discredit Professor Bell, to malign his character, or to mischaracterize his contributions. We recognize Derrick Bell as a great champion of equality for all Americans. We honor 1his legacy and the example he provided of a life fully and courageously lived.

Our signatures below express solidarity with an eminent scholar who advanced legal thinking, teaching and advocacy.  We encourage those who read this letter to continue Professor Bell’s quest for social justice and equality.  To learn more about our remarkable colleague, to read additional tributes, and to support his family’s request to endow the Derrick Bell Lecture Series on Race in American Society at New York University School of Law, please visit www.professorderrickbell.com.

Signed by:*

 

Lisa Boykin, Esq.

Cheryl Nelson Butler, SMU Dedman School of Law

Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Emory University School of Law

Sherrilyn Ifill, University of Maryland School of Law

Suzette M. Malveaux, Catholic University, Columbus School of Law

Margaret Montoya, University of New Mexico School of Law & Health Sciences Center

Natsu Taylor Saito, Georgia State University College of Law

Nareissa L Smith, North Carolina Central University School of Law

Tanya Washington, Georgia State University College of Law

 

*Institutional affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

Individual Signatories

Name                                                                     Institution¨ Law School¨
SpearIt Saint Louis University
Upendra Acharya Gonzaga Law School
Muneer Ahmad Yale Law School
Adjoa Aiyetoro UALR Bowen School of Law & Institute on Race and Ethnicity
Raquel Aldana Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Barbara Aldave University of Oregon School of Law
Deleso Alford FAMU College of Law
Alicia Alvarez University of Michigan
Adell Amos University of Oregon School of Law
Anthony Amsterdam New York University School of Law
Angelo Ancheta Santa Clara University
Ruby Andrew Southern University Law Center
Claudia Angelos NYU Law
Michele Anglade FIU – College of Law
Fran Ansley University of Tennessee College of Law
Deborah Archer New York Law School
Fabio Arcila, Jr. Touro Law Center
Gabriel Arkles NYU School of Law
Elvia Arriola Northern Illinois University
Michael Avery Suffolk Law School
Sahar Aziz Texas Wesleyan School of Law
Kimberly Bailey Chicago-Kent College of Law
Shalanda Baker William H. Hastie Fellow, University of Wisconsin Law School
W. David Ball Santa Clara Law School
Clinton Bamberger University of Maryland
Taunya Banks University of Maryland
Lorraine Bannai Seattle UniversitySchool of Law
Margaret Barry Vermont Law School
Robert Batey Stetson University College of Law
Felice Batlan IIT/Chicago-Kent
Steven Bender Seattle University School of Law
Leslie Bender Syracuse University College of Law
Emily Benfer Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Barbara Bernier FAMU
Kama Bethel Pierce Charlotte School of Law
Brian Bix University of Minnesota
Beryl Blaustone CUNY School of Law
John Bonine University of Oregon
Cynthia Bowman Cornell Law School
Ronald Brand University of Pittsburgh
Brenda Bratton Blom University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Ralph Brill Chicago Kent College of Law
Tonya Brito University of Wisconsin Law School
Linda Broessel Cardozo
Teresa Bruce University of Denver College of Law
Regina F. Burch Capital University Law School
John Burkoff University of Pittsburgh
Nancy Burkoff University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Tricia Bushnell University of Wisconsin Law School
paul butler George Washington University Law School
Patricia Cain Santa Clara Law
Paulette Caldwell New York University School of Law
Ann Cammett Boyd School of Law, UNLV
Camille Lamar Campbell Nova Southeastern University
John J. Capowski Widener University School of Law
Susan Carle American University Washington College of Law
Gilbert Carrasco Willamette University College of Law
Kim D. Chanbonpin The John Marshall Law School
Robert Chang Seattle University School of Law
Constinia Charbonnette West Virginia University
Alan Chen University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Nina Chernoff NYU
April Cherry Cleveland Marshall College of Law
Gabriel Chin University of California, Davis, School of Law
Carol Chomsky University of Minnesota Law School
Neil Cogan Whittier Law School
Marjorie Cohn Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Douglas L. Colbert Maryland
Liz Ryan Cole Vermont Law School
Frank Rudy Cooper Suffolk University Law School
Elizabeth Cooper Fordham University School of Law
Sacha Coupet Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Marva Coward Marquette University School of Law
Michael Coyne Massachusetts School of Law
Phyliss Craig-Taylor Charlotte School of Law
Shelaswau Crier Willamette University College of Law
Lisa Crooms Howard University School of Law
Jane Cross Nova Southeastern University
Mary Crossley University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Patience Crowder University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Patience Crowder Univ. of Denver Sturm College of Law
Tucker Culbertson Syracuse University College of Law
andre douglas pond cummings West Virginia University College of Law
Andrea Curcio Georgia State University College of Law
Sharam Dana John Marshall Law School – Chicago
Nicole Dandridge Michigan State University College of Law
Gloria Danziger University of Baltimore School of Law
Marcella David The University of Iowa College of Law
Benjamin Davis University of Toledo College of Law
Peter Davis Touro Law Center
T. J. Davis Arizona State University, History
Connie de la Vega University of San Franciso
Frank Deale CUNY Law School
John Denvir USF Law School
Meera Deo Thomas Jefferson School of Law
John DeWitt-Gregory Mauarice A. Dean School of Law at Hostra University
Amy Dillard University of Baltimore School of Law
Jessica Dixon Weaver SMU Dedman School of Law
David Dominguez Brigham Young University
Norman Dorsen NYU
Mary Dudziak USC Gould School of Law
Daniel J. Dye Phoenix School of Law
Jessica Eaglin California Western Law
Malik Edwards Charlotte School of Law
Beth Eisler University of Toledo College of Law
Anne Emanuel Georgia State University College of Law
Garrett Epps Profess, University of Baltimore
Bryan K. Fair University of Alabama
Michael Fakhri University of Oregon School of Law
Edward A. Fallane Marquette University School of Law
John Farago CUNY Law School
Anthony Paul Farley Albany Law School
Ian Farrell Denver University Sturm College of Law
Zanita Fenton University of Miami
Caroline Forell University of Oregon
Mary Louise Frampton Berkeley Law
Ruben Garcia UNLV Law
Marsha Garrison Brooklyn Law School
Frederick Mark Gedicks Brigham Young University Law School
Angela Gilmore North Carolina Central University School of Law
Brian Gilmore Michigan State University College of Law
Rashmi Goel University of Denver College of Law
Suzanne Goldberg Columbia Law School
Placido Gomez Phoenix School of Law
Jasmine Gonzales Rose University of Pittsburgh
Marc-Tizoc González St. Thomas University School of Law
Thalia González Occidental College
Victor Goode CUNY Law School
Leigh Goodmark University of Baltimore
Ruth Elizabeth Gordon Villanova University School of Law
Neil Gotanda Western State College of Law
Joseph Karl Grant Capital University School of Law
Michael Z. Green Texs Wesleyan University School of Law
Linda Sheryl Greene University of Wisconsin Law School
Wendy Greene Cumberland School of Law
K.J. Greene Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Catherine Grosso Michigan State University College of Law
Martin Guggenheim NYU School of Law
Kaaryn Gustafson University of Connecticut School of Law
Phoebe Haddon University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Gail Hammer Gonzaga University School of Law
Ian Haney Lopez UC Berkeley School of Law
Joseph Harbaugh Nova Southeastern Law Center
Vinay Harpalani Seattle University School of Law
Angela Harris University of California, Davis
Bernadette Hartfield Georgia State University College of Law
Emily Hartigan St. Mary’s University School of Law, San Antonio
Stacy Hawkins Rutgers School  of Law – Camden
Michael Hayes University of Baltimore
Lynne henderson UNLV-Boyd School of Law
Taja-Nia Henderson NYU School of Law
Tanya Hernandez Fordham Law School
Ernesto Hernandez-Lopez Chapman University School of Law
David Herring University of Pittsburgh
Michael Higginbotham University of Baltimore
Bill Hing University of San Francisco
Cynthia Ho Loyola University of Chicgao
Stephen Hobbs Univ. of Alabama School of Law
Candice Hoke Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Joan Howarth Michigan State University College of Law
K. Babe Howell CUNY School of Law
Joyce A. Hughes Northwestern University School of Law
Kent Hull Notre Dame Law School
Richard Humphrey Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Lisa Ikemoto UC Davis School of Law
Areto Imoukhuede Nova Southeastern Univ. Law Center
Anthony Infanti University of Pittsburgh School of Law
David Jaros University of Baltimore School of Law
Peter Jaszi American University
Jelani Jefferson Exum Univ. of Toledo College of Law
Jalila Jefferson-Bullock Phoenix School of Law
Jamila Jefferson-Jones Barry Univ. School of Law
Mar Jimeno-Bulnes Chicago-Kent College of Law
Danne Johnson Oklahoma City University
Margaret Johnson University of Baltimore School of Law
Conrad Johnson Columbia University School of Law
Laura Johnson University of Oregon School of Law
Paula C. Johnson Syracuse University College of Law
Dennis Jones West Virginia University
Beto Juárez University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Ann Juergens William Mitchell College of Law
David Kairys Temple University
Sylvia Kangara University of Washington School of Law
Eileen Kaufman Touro Law Center
Lisa Kelly University of Washington
walter j  (jerry) kendall lll john marshall law school
Jenn Kim University of Baltimore School of Law
J.D, King Washington and Lee University School of Law
Karl Klare Northeastern University School of Law
Richard Klein Touro Law School
Catherine Klein Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America
Angela Mae Kupenda Mississippi College School of Law
Margaret B. Kwoka John Marshall Law School – Chicago
Robert Lancaster Louisiana State University
Brian Landsberg Pacific McGeorge
Lundy Langston Florida A & M College of Law
Christopher Lasch University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Rogelio Lasso John Marshall Law School
Inga Laurent Gonzaga School of Law
Sylvia Law NYU Law
Charles Lawrence University of Hawaii
Stephen Lazarus Cleveland-Marshall Col. of Law
Brant Lee University of Akron School of Law
Cynthia Lee The George Washington University Law School
Jaime Lee University of Baltimore
Arthur Leonard New York Law School
Carrie Leonetti University of Oregon School of Law
Nancy Leong Univ of Denver Law School
Mark Levin Univ. Of Hawaii
David Levine Univ of California, Hastings
Lawrence Levine Pacific McGeorge
Evelyn Lewis UC Davis School of Law
Hope Lewis Northeastern University School of Law
Jules Lobel University of Pittsburgh Law School
Stephen Loffredo CUNY School of Law
Cortney Lollar Washington University School of Law
Guadalupe Luna Northern Illinois University College of Law
Sheldon Lyke Northwestern University School of Law
Beth Lyon Villanova School of Law
Rhonda Magee University of San Francisco
Holly Maguigan New York University School of Law
Tayyab Mahmud Seattle University School of Law
Pedro A. Malavet The University of Florida Levin College of Law
Solangel Maldonado Seton Hall Law School
Daniel Manville Michigan State University Law College
Deborah Maranville University of Washington
Terry Maroney Vanderbilt University Law School
Andrea McArdle City University of New York School of Law
Amy McCormick Michigan State University College of Law
Robert McCormick Michigan State University College of Law
Audrey McFarlane University of Baltimore School of Law
Henry W. McGee, Jr. Seattle University School of Law
Karla Mckanders University of Tennessee
Laura McNeal Harvard Law
Beverly McQueary Smith Touro Law Center
M Isabel Medina Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Miguel Mendez UC Davis Law School
Vanessa Merton Pace University School of Law
Kris Miccio Sturm College of Law, University of Denver
Frank Michelman Harvard Law School
Alison Mikkor NYU School of Law
Elliott Milstein American University Washington College of Law
S. David Mitchell University of Missouri
Michael Moffitt University of Oregon School of Law
Melinda S. Molina Capital University Law School
James Mooney Univ of Oregon
Francis J. Mootz III University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
Adele Morrison Wayne State University Law School
Loren Mulraine Belmont Univ. College of Law
Kali Murray Marquette University School of Law
Sheldon Nahmod Chicago-Kent College of Law
Smita Narula NYU School of Law
Odeana Neal University of Baltimore School of Law
Eboni Nelson University of South Carolina School of Law
Elizabeth Nevins NYU
Kenneth Nunn University of Florida
James O’Fallon University of Oregon
Paul O’Neil [former prof, now] Human Rights in China
Kimberly OLeary Thomas M. Cooley Law School
David Oppenheimer Berkeley (Boalt Hall)
Nancy Ota Albany Law School
Margie Paris University of Oregon
Elizabeth Patterson Georgetown University Law Center
Elizabeth Patterson Georgetown University Law Center
Juan Perea Loyola University Chicago
Justin Pidot University of Denver Sturm College of Law
John Pierre Southern University Law Center
Rhonda Pierre Cato FAMU College of Law
Victoria Plaut Berkeley Law
Ellen Podgor Stetson University College of Law
Randle Pollard Widener University School of Law
James Polshek Columbia Law School
James Pope Rutgers Law School – Newark
Cesar F. Posado Chicago Kent College of Law
Cedric Merlin Powell University of Louisville
Carla Pratt Penn State University, Dickinson School of Law
Eric Priest University of Oregon School of Law
Intisar Rabb New York University School of Law
Hon. John T. Racanelli (Ret.) UCHastings College/Law
Joy Radice NYU Law
Steven A. Ramirez Loyola University Chicago
Sarah Redfield University of New Hampshire
Maritza Reyes Florida A&M University College of Law
Paula R Rhodes University of Denver Sturm College of Law
L. Song Richardson University of Iowa College of Law
Dean Richardson Willamette University College of Law
Judy Ritter Widener
Dorothy Roberts Northwestern University School of Law
Mildred Wigfall Robinson University of Virginia School of Law
Ruthann Robson City University of New York School of Law
Harold O.M. Rocha University of Wisconsin
Jorge Roig Charleston School of Law
Florence Roisman Indiana U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Ediberto Roman Florida International University
Tom Romero, II University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Mary Romero, Ph.D. Justice Studies, Arizona State University
Howard Rosenberg Sturm College of Law
Thomas Ross University of Pittsburgh
Denise Roy William Mitchell College of Law
Margaret M. Russell Santa Clara University School of Law
Susan Rutberg Golden Gate Law
Kenneth Salzberg Hamline
Mindy Sanchez Charlotte School of Law
Michael Satz University of Idaho College of Law
Elizabeth M. Schneider Brooklyn Law School
Michael Selmi George Washington University Law School
Michael Seng The John Marshall Law School
Rachel Settlage Wayne State Law School
Peter Shane Ohio State University
Daniel Sharfstein Vanderbilt University Law School
Katherine C Sheehan Southwestern Law School
Teri Shugart Santa Clara Law
Nancy Shurtz University of Oregon
Jessica Silbey Suffolk University Law School
Lahny Silva Indiana University – McKinney
Marjorie Silver Touro Law Center
Risa Sisco University of Oregon
Peggie Smith Washington Univ. School of Law (St. Louis)
Andre Smith Widener Law School
Catherine Smith University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
Norman Stein Drexel University
Eleanor Stein Albany Law School
Joan Steinman Chicago-Kent College of Law, Ill. Inst. of Tech.
Michele Storms University of Washington School of Law
John Strait Seattle University School of Law
Susan Sturm Columbia Law School
M.D. Taracido M.D. Taracido
George Taylor University of Pittsburgh School of Law
M. Victoria Taylor Charlotte School of Law
Keeva Terry Roger Williams University School of Law
Dana Thompson University of Michigan Law School
Arturo Torres Texas Tech University
Enid Trucios-Haynes Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville
Gloria Valencia-Weber University of New Mexico School of Law
Pamela Vesilnd Vermont Law School
dominick vetri Univ. of Oregon Law School
Suzanne Villano Univ. of Miami
Robin Walker Sterling University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Lu-in Wang University of Pittsburgh
Leland Ware University of Delaware
Richard Warner Chicago-Kent College of Law
Carlton Waterhouse Indiana Univ. Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Lindsey Webb Denver Law School
L. Darnell Weeden Texas Southern Univ. Thurgood Marshall School of Law
Judith Wegner University of North Carolina
Merle Weiner University of Oregon School of Law
Alan Weinstein Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Hazel Weiser Society of American Law Teachers
Deborah Weissman UNC School of Law
Robert Westley Tulane Law School
Frederic White Texas Wesleyan University School of Law
Amy Widman Northern Illinois University College of Law
Verna Williams University of Cincinnati College of Law
Andrew Williams NYU School of Law
Lucy Williams Northeastern University School of Law
Neil G. Williams Loyola University Chicago
Phoebe W. Williams Marquette University School of Law
Anna Williams Shavers University of Nebraska
Jim Wilson Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Darryl C. Wilson Stetson University College of Law
Evelyn Wilson Southern University Law School
Leah Wortham The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
eric wright Santa Clara University School of Law
Larry Yackle Boston University
Ellen Yaroshefsky Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law
Lua Kamal Yuille University of Wisconsin Law School
Archie Zariski Athabasca University
Candace Zierdt Stetson College of Law

 

Institutional Signatory

Society of American Law Teachers

 

 

 



¨ Institutional affiliations listed for identification purposes only.   Also, all institutional affiliations listed are accurate as of the date the letter was signed, but affiliations may have changed between date of signature and the publication date of this letter.