Bell, who worked to expose racism in America through his books and articles, died on Wednesday of carcinoid cancer.
He is most known for his much covered resignation from Harvard Law School as a professor to protest the school’s hiring practices.
Mr. Bell was the first tenured black professor at Harvard Law School and later the first black dean of a law school that is not historically black. But he was perhaps better known for resigning from prestigious jobs than for accepting them.
In his 20s, while working at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, he was told to give up his membership in the N.A.A.C.P., which his superiors believed posed a conflict of interest. Instead, he quit the Justice Department, ignoring the advice of friends to try to change things from within.