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Recent Publications - Journal Articles

Derrick Bell’s Post-Brown Moves Toward Critical Race Theory

Hughes, S., Noblit, G., & Cleveland, D.
Race Ethnicity and Education, 16 (4): 422-469 (2013)

DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2013.817765 Information about DOI

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The late Professor Derrick Bell is renowned as the intellectual architect who drafted the blueprints that guided the initial development of critical race theory (CRT). Prior to the advent of CRT, Professor Bell wrote extensively on initiatives designed to improve the lives of African Americans. Among his most influential scholarship, ‘Serving Two Masters’ from the 1976 Yale Law Review emerged as a seminal foundational piece for CRT. We found that Bell’s post-Brown litigation and frustrations were captured in several powerful law review journals from 1970–1976. During this time, he wrote extensively on minority admissions programs, school litigation strategies, racial remediation, equal employment, and of course the Brown decision and its aftermath. These early works attended to the details of how legal remediation for racism in various forms could be considered and approached, but more often were ignored and denied. These same works showed the contradictions built into legal strategies. By working through the details of specific racial remediation strategies, Derrick Bell realized the ubiquity of the negative influences of post-Brown integration goals in all aspects of African American life, including the law. His seminal 1976 Yale Law Review piece emerged not from theory, per se, but from very specific engagements with reasoning about post-Brown policies and practices that failed to serve the interests of most African American families. For Bell, hope seemed to wax and wane as clarity emerged. This article analyses Bell’s law review articles that were published between 1970 and 1976, when he began full-fledged writing that ultimately provided a blueprint for the CRT movement in the academy.

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