Duke law prof, Bell widow to speak at combined lecture

Guy-Uriel E. Charles and Janet DeWart Bell

Duke Law professor Guy-Uriel E. Charles and author and communications specialist Janet DeWart Bell, widow of former law school Dean Derrick Bell, will speak on the UO campus Feb. 10.

The event is a collaborative effort combining the 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. It takes place at the Knight Law Center, Room 175 at 5:30 p.m.; a prelecture reception will begin at 4:30 p.m. An RSVP is strongly recommended.

Charles’ talk is titled “The Permanence of Racism: Race, Power and the Architecture of American Democracy.” He is the Charles S. Rhyne Professor of Law and senior associate dean for faculty and research at Duke University and co-director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race, and Politics.

The center is a multidisciplinary initiative created to support research, public engagement, teaching and activities on the intersection of law, race and politics. 

Charles is an expert in and frequent public commentator on constitutional law, election law, campaign finance, redistricting, politics and race. In 2016, he received the law school’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

He has published more than 30 articles in journals including the Harvard Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, The Journal of Politics and others. He also is the co-author of two leading casebooks and two edited volumes and has been a visiting professor at law schools at Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, Georgetown University, the University of Virginia and Columbia University. 

Bell, author of “Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” is a communications strategist, social justice advocate, activist, executive coach, motivational speaker and broadcaster.

She won an Emmy for outstanding individual achievement as a CBS commentator and received a Peabody Award for work at National Public Radio. She is the founder and president of LEAD InterGenerational Solutions Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to developing intergenerational leaders as social change agents.

The UO’s Derrick Bell Lecture Series honors Bell, who from 1980 to 1985 was the first African-American to serve as dean of the UO law school. He wrote extensively about race in the United States and challenged the academic institutions he served to commit to diversity.

Marcilynn A. Burke, dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law at the UO, spoke of the significance of the series and lecture.  

“As the first black female dean of the University of Oregon School of Law, I know I am standing on the shoulders of Dean Derrick Bell,” Burke said. “We are honored to host this lecture series in honor and recognition of the paths that Dean Bell blazed. We are looking forward to Charles’ lecture and the special treat of having Janet Bell’s remarks as well this year.”

Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the UO’s vice president for equity and inclusion, said the two speakers will bring a powerful force to campus.

“The analysis and inspiration that both Charles and Bell will bring, particularly during Black History Month and in this election year, will help our campus honor where we have been and help us to assess where we still need to go,” she said. “We look forward to not only hearing, learning and being inspired by these two speakers but for future collaborations across campus to bring powerful and needed experts to help us achieve our goals of an inclusive environment for all.”

For more information, see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website and the School of Law website.

By tova stabin, University Communications