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12 Harv. Blackletter L. J. 161 (1995)
Derrick Bell: Tolling in Protest

handle is hein.journals/hblj12 and id is 165 raw text is: BOOK REVIEW
Adrien Katherine Wing*
Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester by Derrick Bell.
Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. Pp. xiv, 194. $20.00 cloth.
Derrick Bell's third book, Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent
Protester, is an autobiographical slice from the life of America's premier
Black constitutional scholar. To call him merely a scholar would do him
a profound disservice because, as this book illustrates, he is a committed
activist as well. The tradition of the Black scholar-activist spans this cen-
tury, from W.E.B. DuBois to Harvard Professor Cornel West. Their lives,
along with Bell's, are testaments of the ability of and need for Black
intellectuals not to be relegated solely to the ivory tower. I remember
being asked several times early in my teaching career whether I thought
I would be able to meet the rigorous scholarly requirements of tenure in
a top-twenty law school and still remain an activist of sorts.' The ivory
tower did not jibe with the picket sign, many said. I would always hold
up Derrick Bell as one of my role models, a replacement for the intellec-
tual and physical father that I lost at an early age.2
In his latest work, Professor Bell presents profound insights into the
customary law of protest3 The norms he has derived are from his own expe-
riences as a protester, rather than from mere theoretical constructs. Through
his reflections and analysis in Confronting Authority, Bell pays tribute to
the many civil rights protesters, old and young, Black and white, who
have been harassed, beaten, jailed, and even killed in the pursuit of justice.
Similar to his two earlier books,4 Confronting Authority utilizes Bell's
now familiar storytelling technique. This method follows an ancient tra-
* Professor of Law, University of Iowa College of Law.
1. I have been involved in a variety of protest movements and causes, including the
anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the U.S. civil rights movement, anti-war
rallies, Middle East peace issues, and pro-choice matters.
2. My father, Dr. John E. Wing, Jr., died when I was nine years old. A native of Harlem,
he attended Bronx High School of Science when he was one of only a few Blacks
there. He went to UCLA at the age of 16 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He
subsequently graduated second in his class at New York University Medical School
in 1953. He instilled in me the example of academic and intellectual excellence that
has remained with me throughout my life.
3. Customary law is a comparative law concept that includes any unwritten norms or
rules that may be in use in a particular setting. See generally JouN BARTON, Jim GIBBS,

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