Civil rights expert to speak at annual Derrick Bell Lecture

American University Washington College of Law Professor Lia Epperson, a nationally known expert on civil rights and constitutional law, will deliver the annual Derrick Bell Lecture on Feb. 12.

The event is a collaborative effort combining the UO School of Law’s Derrick Bell Lecture with the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the Office of the President and facilitated by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. The virtual event takes place via Zoom from noon to 1:15 pm. Individuals must RSVP to attend the virtual event.

Epperson’s talk is titled “Are We Still Not Saved? Race, Democracy, and Educational Inequality.” She is well known for her work in the areas of civil rights, constitutional law and education policy. Her scholarship centers on the constitutional dialogue between federal courts and the political branches, and its implications for educational equity.

Epperson’s research, published in leading journals, also explores the role of public schools, colleges and universities in creating equal opportunity. As a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, her previous work focused on federal civil rights enforcement of education policies and practices. Her expertise has led to appearances on CNN, NBC News and C-SPAN.

Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the UO’s vice president for equity and inclusion, said Epperson’s work is a true reflection of the legacy of Derrick Bell.  

“Professor Epperson has traveled all around the world to speak on issues of constitutional law, freedom of expression and equality,” Alex-Assensoh said. “We are honored to have her voice affirm the legacy of Derrick Bell, who dedicated his career to these fundamental rights/qualities.”

Derrick Bell served as the first African American dean of the School of Law from 1980 to 1985. He is considered one of the most influential voices in the foundation of critical race theory, a framework that examines society and culture as they connect to race, law and power.

Marcilynn A. Burke, dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law at the UO, said Bell’s legacy holds significance, and the lecture brings attention to how his work is applicable today.  

“Even though we’ve come a long way in the area of race, law and power, Bell’s scholarship shows us that we still have work ahead of us,” Burke said.

—By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications