Named in honor of the distinguished Professor Derrick Bell, the lecture celebrates his legacy as one of the founders of critical race theory.
Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig delivered the 23rd Annual Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society at New York University School of Law this past November.
Initiated in 1995, the lecture celebrates the life and legacy of Professor Derrick Bell, the first tenured African American professor of law at Harvard Law School and one of the originators of critical race theory. Professor Bell taught at NYU Law from 1991 until his passing in 2011.
“The mission of this lecture series… is to examine the role of race in American society, and the role that law can play in achieving justice, and the role sometimes that law has played in holding it back,” said Trevor Morrison, dean of NYU Law. “It has served as an important platform for leading scholars and activists to share their work and insights on racial justice and civil rights.”
Dean Onwuachi-Willig shared her admiration for the late Professor Bell as a pioneer for African Americans in academia and an advocate of civil rights. She noted that, as a junior faculty member at University of California, Davis School of Law, receiving the AALS Minority Groups Section Derrick A. Bell Award was “one of the greatest achievements of my life.”
In her lecture, “The Tragedies of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin: Illustrating Professor Derrick Bell’s Lesson on How ‘Racial Patterns Adapt in Ways that Maintain White Dominance,’” Dean Onwuachi-Willig drew on several of Professor Bell’s writings and two cases of racial violence—one historic and one modern—to demonstrate how racial forces and tropes have “adapted to newer, more subtle patterns” that continue to undermine progress toward racial equity and justice and ensure white supremacy.
Watch her lecture below:
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