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Race, Racism, and American Law: Leading Cases and Materials, 2023

  • Derrick A. Bell
  • Cheryl I. Harris
  • Justin Hansford
  • Amna A. Akbar
  • Atiba Ellis
  • Audrey G. McFarlane
Series / Supplements
Teaching Materials

Intended for use with the authors’ forthcoming casebook, Race, Racism, and American Law, Seventh Edition (forthcoming 2024), Race, Racism, and American Law: Leading Cases and Materials includes significant historical and contemporary cases and materials edited with an aim to foreground the most relevant sections and passages to illustrate the crucial role of race in the formation of US law. This new edition of Derrick Bell’s groundbreaking textbook Race, Racism, and American Law, like prior versions, eschews a traditional casebook format. The locus of analysis in this text is the struggle for racial justice, and its underlying history and political context as reflected in the ongoing contestation over law, legal reform, and transformation. As such the supplement includes but is not limited to Supreme Court cases. We follow Bell’s model of locating all edited cases and materials in the supplement, reserving the book’s text to provide historical and political context for significant cases or legislative actions, along with hypothetical questions, comments, and other tools of analysis.

Professors and students will benefit from:

  • Both legal and non-legal primary source material.Leading Cases and Materials includes selected historical and contemporary cases, legislation, and other legal materials that foreground the crucial role of race and racism, and the struggle for racial justice, within and through US law.
  • A carefully selected compilation of United States Supreme Court Cases. Each case is chosen to guide readers through elements of US jurisprudence which reflect both reform and retrenchment of societal inequity as it relates to the question of race. Cases range from significant 18th century cases such as Johnson v. McIntosh (1823) (indigenous people cannot transfer full title to land) to contemporary civil rights decisions such as Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021) (further limiting the reach of the Voting Rights Act) and Comcast v. National Association of African American Owned Media (2020) (limiting protections against racial discrimination in contracting).
  • Doctrinally and theoretically significant cases from lower federal courts and state courts. Cases from lower courts are selected to provide critical race insights into how judicial institutions outside the US Supreme Court shape doctrine and debates over race and racial inequality. Cases range from Acre v. Douglass (9th Cir. 2015) (ban on teaching of Mexican American studies found unconstitutional) to Lobato v. Taylor (Colo. 2003) (speculator attempts to divest Mexican American landowners with defective title derived from Mexico).
  • Significant legislative and executive legal documents. This supplement includes materials going beyond traditional edited cases, reflecting the insight that a critical race analysis necessitates a grasp of law beyond the courts. Additional materials range from the United States Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (2015) to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

Benefits for instructors and students:

  • Provokes discussion on contemporary and historical legal controversies cases and materials edited to address issues the lens of critical race theory’s conceptual framework
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About the authors
Derrick Bell
Harvard University New York University

Derrick Bell's contributions as a civil rights advocate, intellectual instigator, scholar, and professor at Harvard University and New York University are immeasurable. His work and presence have been foundational to an entire field of law and legal scholarship, Critical Race Theory. He mentored generations of legal scholars, social justice advocates, and students, inspiring thousands to live out their commitments to fight racial injustice. He taught with his whole self by repeatedly demonstrating his willingness to contest the prevailing status quo. His passing in 2011 came before he could complete the seventh revision of his groundbreaking text, emRace, Racism and American Lawem, first published in 1973. That text was the first of its kind and, like its author, was intellectually demanding, encyclopedic, and innovative. It was also a product of a restless spirit that did not settle for easy answers or self-reassuring platitudes. As a witness to and participant in a pivotal and historic period of the fight for racial justice, Professor Bell, perhaps more than many, understood both the possibility and limits of the law and relentlessly pursued the clear-eyed, unsentimental truth. He had seen that the trajectory of the struggle for racial justice was not a linear upward path but a jagged and sometimes nearly indiscernible road, with switchbacks, cutouts, cul-de-sacs, and only scattered lookouts of soaring vistas. Nevertheless, he insisted that we achieve a sense of direction by constantly testing and contesting ideas.& Professor Bell's story and trajectory—from civil rights practice to theory—introduced a different way of approaching the study and teaching of law. Instead of centering the Supreme Court as the protagonist in the quest for civil and human rights, he centered the social movements that sought to enforce the promises and commitments codified in the country's fundamental law. He put it more eloquently than anyone else could:& The movement for racial justice "was much more than the totality of the judicial decisions, the anti-discrimination laws and the changes in racial relationships reflected in those legal milestones…" His mission was to find "a method of expression adequate to the phenomenon of rights gained, then lost, then gained again." He helped us understand that the movement was not bound by time or existing doctrine. It was instead a commitment to carry the fight across generations, despite its repeated derailment.

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Civil Rights / Race and the Law , Race and the Law
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