Janet Dewart Bell is a social justice activist with a doctorate in leadership and change from Antioch University. She founded the Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society series at the New York University School of Law. Author of Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement (The New Press).

An award-winning television and radio producer, Dr. Bell lives in New York City. 

PRAISE FOR Lighting the Fires of Freedom

A primer and an inspiration for anyone looking to make their mark during these times of change and uncertainty.”
— Juhu Thukral, human rights lawyer and inaugural speaker, Anita Hill Lecture Series

“A must-read for anyone interested in race, gender, class, American political development, the Civil Rights Movement, and the power of social change.”

Christina M. Greer, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Fordham University

“Janet Dewart Bell’s compelling oral history, Lighting the Fires of Freedom, captures the unique voices of nine intrepid women who, each in her own way, contributed grit, love, strength, strategy, spirit, and a formidable personal commitment to the struggle for racial rights and dignity that have yet to be fully realized (and are now regressing by the minute). Today’s activists have much to learn from these amazing women. You’ll wish you’d marched side by side with every one of them.”

Letty Cottin Pogrebin, co-founding editor of Ms. magazine

“A fresh and revealing oral history of the Civil Rights Movement as told by nine African American women . . . striking and fascinating stories that greatly enrich our appreciation of the crucial roles women of diverse back- grounds played in the pivotal fight for civil rights.”

—  Booklist

 “Polls and election results confirm that black women lead in supporting racial and gender equality. Lighting the Fires of Freedom helps to complete history, explain the present, and guide us to the future—through the voices and wisdom of some of the black women who co-created the Civil Rights Movement.”
Gloria Steinem 

 “Another important and critical contribution to the historical and present day story of #BlackGirlMagic.”
Rashad Robinson, executive director, Color of Change 


“Candid testimony from impressive and influential women.”

— Kirkus Reviews 

“Bell deploys impressive interviewing skills in this valuable collection of oral histories of nine female civil rights activists…This is a valuable and enlightening companion to other accounts of the movement.”

—Publishers Weekly 

“All Americans need to know the stories of the brave women so beautifully profiled in Janet Dewart Bell’s im- portant new book, Lighting the Fires of Freedom. Today’s generation of activists fighting for racial justice will be inspired and strengthened by reading her book and learning about the leadership and courage of these incredible women who were ‘woke’ before anyone ever used that word.”

Roger Hickey, co-director, Campaign for America’s Future

upcoming book events

The OnPoint! Experience

May 26, 2018

10:00 a.m.

Call-in number for submitting audience questions: 929-227-4646. 

Or tune into to hear the show.