Two events celebrate the life and lasting influence of Derrick Bell

The first week of November, the NYU School of Law and the family of Derrick Bell will pay tribute to Bell's life and lasting influence. A full-time visiting professor since 1990, Bell passed away on October 5, 2011, at age 80.

On Wednesday, November 2, Ian Haney López, John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, will give the 16th annual Derrick Bell lecture, on “Justice Undone: Color Blindness After Civil Rights." Lopez is a noted scholar of race and constitutional law, with a focus on the social, and specifically legal, construction of race.

The Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society was inaugurated in 1995 to celebrate Bell’s 65th birthday and to bring his work and that of other race scholars to a wider audience. The lectures examine race in American society and celebrate the work of pre-eminent scholars and activists working for racial justice and civil rights. The inaugural lecture was presented by Charles Ogletree; subsequent speakers have included Charles Lawrence, Richard Delgado, Patricia Williams, Mari Matsuda, Paul Butler, and Bell himself. The series has explored a diverse range of contemporary race issues, from rap music’s challenge to discrimination in the criminal justice system, to “post-racial” politics in the Obama era, to the housing mortgage crisis seen through a race perspective.

The lecture has always been more than just a lecture. One of the signature features of this event is the moment when Bell's wife, Janet, leads the audience in a rousing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday.” It is a uniquely meaningful and popular lecture series at NYU Law, drawing a wide and diverse audience, and will continue after his passing.

On Thursday, November 3, 2011, Bell’s family, friends, students and colleagues will gather at Riverside Church in New York City to say farewell at a memorial service celebrating Bell’s life and work. New York University President, Dean Emeritus, and Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law John Sexton will deliver a eulogy. And a video of tributes and remembrances by students and colleagues will be shown.


Note: The description of the Derrick Bell Lecture Series on Race in American Society is loosely adapted from material in the Derrick Bell Official Site.