Hardcover and eBooks Available for Kindle and on Audible.com.


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 at the New York University School of Law, now in its 23rd year. She is 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.

Full Biography


My respect for the women in Lighting the Fires of Freedom  and others in the Civil Rights Movement knows no bounds, so I am happy to clarify a few references made during my presentation recorded recently on  C-SPAN2 Book TV.  Please note that the information is correct in the book.


Thank you, Judy, for contacting me.  I am happy to make these clarifications and corrections.

  • Judy Richardson was one of the SNCC people who ran the WATS line, not the only one. While speaking, I conflated her response to transcribing Prathia Hall's mass meeting oratory with her demeanor while calling in reports to the FBI.
  • While Prathia's oratory brought Judy to tears, it is important to know that Judy never once cried when talking with the FBI.  As she said in my book, "Keeping calm was one of the things that I learned in the Movement. I would get all the information, then call the FBI..."
  • Judy points out that the FBI did nothing to intercede not because they did not want to blow their cover, but because FBI director J. Edgar Hoover just did not want to aid civil rights workers.  He was fundamentally opposed to the work being done by civil rights organizers.
  • The Boston photo was taken as Judy was giving the keynote at the City of Boston's Martin Luther King Day celebration in 2010.
  • The series title, Eyes on the Prize, came from a list of Freedom Songs that Judy distributed to the documentary's first production team; Henry Hampton, founder of Blackside and Executive Director chose "Eyes on the Prize."

Let me add that Judy also organized a Residential Freedom School and was with Stokely Carmichael and other SNCC people who first began organizing in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965, after the Selma to Montgomery March. SNCC worked with local activists to organize the Lowndes Country Freedom Party, whose logo was the Black Panther.


Claudette Colvin, the brave teenager who refused to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery bus months before Rosa Parks, is still alive.  She was also a named plaintiff in the suit that ended the bus boycott.  She is 78 and lives in the Bronx, New York. Although she is not in my book, I usually mention her heroic action as part of the conversation about women we should laud.  I had been told that she had passed. As I was mentioning her after the C-Span program, an audience member  pointed out my error.  I immediately reached out to Ms. Colvin with an apology.  She was kind enough to speak with me.  I am especially pleased to correct the record and to lift up the legacy of this living legend.  Thank you, Ms. Colvin, for your contribution to civil and human rights.  1010 WINS Radio in New York City aired a wonderful interview with her on March 2 of this year.  The report included an interview with her attorney, Fred Gray, a legend himself.  Here is a link to that program:http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/02/16/claudette-colvin-documentary-1010-wins/