The Vetting - Exclusive: Obama Letter to Bell to Blurb 'Dreams from My Father'

Barack Obama’s association with radical Critical Race Theory professor Derrick Bell did not end after Harvard Law School--and certainly not at the April 24, 1990 rally at which Obama embraced Bell, literally and figuratively. Breitbart News has discovered a letter sent by Obama to Bell in February 1995 in which Obama asks Bell to review--and to blurb--an early version of Obama’s autobiography, then entitled Dreams of My Father.

The letter is preserved in the archives of New York University, to which Bell donated his papers. The archives--which are open to the public--include Bell’s papers from decades of research, writing, teaching, and speaking. The website for the archives lists some of Bell’s notable correspondents, but omits Obama. Though the archives do not permit full publication without permission of the copyright holder, some excerpts can be provided.

The letter, dated February 3, 1995, is on a letterhead from Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Galland, the civil rights law firm that hired Obama. Over two pages, Obama brings Bell up to date on his career in Chicago, mentions that he is using Bell’s textbook with his own students, and asks him for help in reviewing, and promoting, Dreams:

As for me, I’m keeping busy in Chicago. I’m currently working at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland here in Chicago, a small firm specializing in employment discrimination and voting rights/civil rights cases. I’m also teaching a seminar on race and the law at the University of Chicago law school -- your casebook has been an invaluable reference guide for that.

The main reason I’m writing to you, though, has to do with a book that I’ve been writing, on again, off again, for the past two years. Originally, the book (called Dreams of My Father) was going to be a series of essays on issues of race and class, but as it has evolved it’s become a memoir of my family and my experiences as an organizer in Chicago...

Your name came to mind as somebody whose insight I’ve always appreciated, so I’ve enclosed an advanced reader’s edition of the book. If you have time to read it and think it’s worth of a plug, I’d be thrilled...

If you own a copy of Dreams from My Father, you will not find a blurb from Bell on the back cover. That is because when Obama ascended to the national stage in 2004, and the book was reprinted, the publishers chose not to include it. But Bell did provide a blurb for the book’s first edition, which is a rare collectible today. The blurb reads:

Dreams from My Father is a beautifully written chronicle of a gifted young man marked and molded by a family whose love for him was as deep as its diversity was daunting. We hear in Barack Obama’s soaring book that survival demands resilience in the face of frustrated expectations, and that one’s committed opposition to the destructive tides of America’s obsession with color cultivates a vision of life that is nourished by struggle.

- Derrick Bell, author of Faces at the Bottom of the Well

By the time Obama reached out to him, Bell’s radicalism was well and widely known. He had just blurbed Louis Farrakhan’s book on black self-reliance, A Torchlight for America, and praised the Nation of Islam’s community education programs.

Clearly, Obama’s link to Bell was more than just a “hug,” but part of a sustained effort to align himself with the radical left--and to be seen by others as a legitimate radical--in the early stages of his public life.



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