Derrick A. Bell- 1995

Derrick A. Bell

Distinguished legal scholar, prolific writer and tireless champion for equal rights

A Lead To Follow

By Nick Gianficaro 

Derrick Albert Bell Jr. is one of the most important black representatives who has made a great difference for all black individuals in our society. Bell has greatly influenced our lifetime by his accomplishment of being the first black Harvard professor and he has helped shape the way for other black professors to follow in his footsteps to be able to be just like him.  

Being able to get into Harvard is already hard enough but being a teacher there might be even more difficult because of all the accolades that you need to have to be able to teach students at such a prestigious university. Derrick was able to possess these qualities to teach students about law. He was able to teach law back in 1971 when "Bell became the first African American to become a tenured professor at Harvard Law School" and he "establish[ed] a course in civil rights law and wrote Race, Racism and American Law" (Makers, H). This is one of the biggest achievements in Bell's career. Being able to work at such a prestigious place and be the first black man to be able to do this paved a path for multiple other colored men and women to follow in his footsteps to do these same things. Also, He was credited as "one of the originators of the critical race theory" (MuniCourts) which was theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power.  This helped to empower different races to try and lead in Bell's footsteps and pursue what Bell has been working for. 

After his 15 years at Harvard, he was able to receive an even higher role in the working world by "becom[ing] the first African American dean of the University of Oregon Law School" Yet again, Bell excels at what he does best and for the wonderful work that he did at Harvard as only a professor, he is given the opportunity to work as a dean of another prestigious school like Oregon. Sadly, while he was the dean at Oregon, he began to protest after the "University directed him not to hire an Asian American tan candidate for a faculty position" (Makers, H) which angered Bell to want to leave his position as the Dean. Although this may seem like a downturn in Bell's career, this showed the world that he would fight for any person to have the chance to be successful like he is. Bell pushed very much to have a colored representative sit in the faculty chair next to him and I applaud him for this effort to make that became a reality. 

Derrick Albert Bell Jr. is a person of stature that people should look up to for everything that he did for the Law industry. He helped facilitate the way for other people to mirror what he has been able to do. Defying all odds to become the first Harvard Law Professor is an incredible feat and this took him a lot of work to build his character and profile to take these steps forward for not only himself, but for the community around him to put their best foot forward and work their hardest for what they strive to become. 

Works Cited 

Makers, H. (n.d.). Derrick A. Bell, Jr.'s Biography. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from 

MuniCourts. (2018, June 18). Derrick Albert BELL jr. – first BLACK Harvard law professor. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from