Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester

Derrick A. Bell, Author Beacon Press (MA) $20 (195p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0926-0
The first black professor tenured at Harvard Law School, Bell (Faces at the Bottom of the Well) lost his job in 1992 after protesting-by taking an unpaid leave of absence-the school's failure to hire and tenure a woman of color. Reflecting first on his youth and career as a civil rights laywer, Bell offers a candid tale of infighting at Harvard Law. The school, he argues persuasively, places more emphasis on paper credentials than proven skills, thus limiting faculty diversity of race, sex and class. During his first year of protest, Bell agreed to teach a seminar at Harvard for free; in his second year, he was a visiting teacher at New York University Law School, where he remains. He describes how warring ideological factions defeated the appointment of a black woman candidate at Harvard Law. The officials there refused to waive a rule limiting faculty leaves to two years, and Bell was fired as he began his third year of protest. While a few observations here ring false-do students really not protest poor teaching by white professors?-Bell raises important questions about institutional racism and offers resonant thoughts on the tradition of protest and its importance to self-esteem. 25,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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