Derrick Bell, a leading racial thinker and law school professor, has died at the age of 80. Besides being an accomplished author, founder of critical race theory, and the first tenured black law professor at Harvard, Bell was famous for quitting jobs on principle: as a young man, he quit a job at the Justice Department rather than resign from the NAACP; and later, he gave up a teaching job at Harvard in order to protest their minority hiring record. From the NYT:
In "Ethical Ambition," a memoir published in 2002, Mr. Bell wrote that his wife's question trailed him afterward, as did another posed by his colleagues: "Who do you think you are?"
Addressing law students grappling with career decisions, he extolled what he called "a life of meaning and worth," even though, he wrote, he sometimes alienated associates who saw his actions as "futile and foolish."