Legendary legal scholar Derrick Bell has been back in the news again. From the grave, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart targeted the late academic’s association with President Obama because of his pioneering work in the field of critical race studies. It’s an ultimately sad stunt, considering Bell’s decades of work to untangle the messy conversations about race in America.

“Derrick Bell was an intellectual giant in the legal academy,” explained Dorian Warren, a Columbia University scholar and Colorlines.com board member. “Bell established an entire field and genre of legal scholarship examining the undeniably racial foundations of American democracy and law. His scholarship is now the mainstream of legal education—from property and employment discrimination to constitutional law—taught in the very best law schools around the country.”

And it wasn’t just his commitment to the work; Bell made sacrifices for his beliefs. He infamously took an unpaid leave of absence from the faculty at Harvard Law School in 1990 until the university appointed a woman of color to its tenured faculty. And so it’s only appropriate to show some appreciation on an International Women’s Day in which conservatives have tried to tarnish his legacy.


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