Critical Race Theory: What is it? Why is it important?

Critical race theory has its origins in the work of lawyer, civil rights activist and scholar Derrick Bell and KimberlĂ© CrenshawRichard DelgadoMari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams, among others. It is rooted in critical theory, which argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. It argues first, that white supremacy in the form of societal or structural racism exists and maintains power through the law; and second, that transforming the relationship between law and racial power, and also achieving racial emancipation and the elimination of social stratification and hierarchies is both possible and desirable.


A guide to critical race theory


Key Scholars

Derrick Bell

Kimberle Crenshaw

Richard Delgado

Patricia Williams


American Bar Association

Critical Race Studies in Education Association

Education Week

Journal of Critical Race Inquiry

Equity and Excellence in Education

American Behavioral Scientist

Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives


National map of course locations





University of Massachusetts Amherst

Black Studies

Penn State

University of the West Indies

Warren Wilson College

The Controversy

National Public Radio

The Atlantic

Michigan State University


Abdul Alkalimat, born Gerald A. McWorter, is Professor Emeritus in the Department of African American Studies and School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Amilcar Shabazz, Professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and is the President of the National Council for Black Studies.

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