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«Covenant Keeper»

Derrick Bell’s Enduring Education Legacy

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Edited By Gloria Ladson-Billings and William Tate

Although he spent his career as a lawyer and law school professor, Derrick Bell had a profound impact on the field of education in the area of educational equity. Among many accomplishments, Bell was the first African American to earn tenure at the Harvard Law School; he also established a new course in civil rights law and produced what has become a famous casebook: Race, Racism, and American Law. The man who could rightly be called, «The Father of Critical Race Theory,» Bell was an innovator who did things with the law that others had not thought possible. This volume highlights Bell’s influence on a number of prominent education and legal scholars by identifying some of his specific work and how they have used it to inform their own thinking and practice. What is contained here is an assemblage of contributors with deep commitments to the path-breaking work of Derrick Bell – a scholar, a teacher, an activist, a mentor, and a covenant keeper.

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Foreword: Critical What What?

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Foreword Critical What What? devon w. carbado* On November 3, 2010, I had the pleasure and honor of delivering the fifteenth annual Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society at New York University School of Law. The event was all the more special to me because it coincided with Professor Bell’s eightieth birthday. Little did I know that this would be the last birthday he would celebrate. In 2011, Derrick Bell died. Less than a year after deliv- ering a lecture in his name and presence I was in New York attending a memorial service that beautifully captured and honored the multiple dimensions of his life. Like all memorial services, Bell’s was a difficult one to attend. For no matter how much I told myself that this was a moment in which to commemorate Bell’s life, it was also, quite clearly, a moment to mark his departure. This endemic fea- ture of memorial services—that they call upon us to both celebrate life and come to terms with death—is precisely why these services inevitably engender sadness and joy, solemnity and humor, prayer and music. And, yet, I knew I had to go. My commitment in this regard was not first and foremost about paying my respects to the exemplary and courageous life Profes- sor Bell had lived. There were other ways I could do that. My decision to attend derived from my sense that the memorial service would be a window on facets of Professor Bell’s life about...

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