Derrick Darby

Welcome to my home on the web!

A great philosopher once said: “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Philosophers are lovers of knowledge. My love of knowledge began when I was a kid growing up in New York City’s Queensbridge Housing Project, 6 blocks, 96 Buildings nestled beneath the 59th Street Bridge up against the East River with mesmerizing views of NYC. In this iconic hip hop neighborhood, I watched as DJ Marley Marl and the Juice Crew put Queens in the hip hop mix. I also watched the neighborhood’s poor righteous teachers (The Five Percenters) school us young heads on the importance of having knowledge of self, the world, and our relationship to the world. In our hood, hip hop was everywhere! It was in the DJing, the rapping, the b-boys and b-girls, the graffiti, and in the knowledge.

My love of knowledge has taken me on a wonderful life journey from Queensbridge to the Ivory Tower and around the world. I am a professor of philosophy. My scholarship and teaching are guided by two concerns: (1) to contemplate abiding philosophical problems in ways that are informed by knowledge of the black experience; (2) to draw on aspects of this experience, such as hip hop, to introduce my students to these problems and to transform the way we think about philosophy and about the challenges posed by the legacy of black chattel slavery in the Americas, Jim Crow segregation in the United States, and the denigration of black humanity since the Enlightenment.

The most important lesson I have learned about philosophy over the years is that it is a very powerful weapon. My life has been devoted to using this weapon to empower my students with knowledge of self, the world, and our relationship to it. 

Peace, respect, and knowledge,
Dr. Derrick Darby

Department of Philosophy
2215 Angell Hall
435 South State Street
My office location 2303 Mason Hall
Ann Arbor, Michigan - 48109-1003



DERRICK DARBY was born in the Bronx, New York and raised in Queensbridge Housing Projects before moving to Manhattan to attend Martin Luther King Jr. High School.  He graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in Philosophy and received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. He has taught at the University of Virginia, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University,  University of Kansas, and is now teaching at the University of Michigan.  

His work has connected philosophy with issues and concerns that impact black America.  Rights, Race, and Recognition, his most recent book, draws on the legacy of race and the denigration of black humanity to argue that all rights are products of social recognition.  He is also the co-editor of Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason, which draws on hip hop to introduce students to philosophical problems and to answer perplexing questions.  This book contains a foreword by Dr. Cornel West who says:  “This path-blazing book begins and ends with the language and realities of the streets—especially the mean streets of the downtrodden yet creative demos in postmodern America.”

He is currently writing a book that combines the story of his journey from Queensbridge to the Ivory Tower with his knowledge of hip hop, philosophy and race matters, to tell the story of the rise and decline of socially conscious rap. He is also writing a book on social justice and racial inequality.

Derrick Darby lectures to scholarly and general audiences in the US and abroad on issues relating to human rights, social justice and inequality, race and racism, hip hop and popular culture.  In addition to having been interviewed on various media outlets, he was the feature cover story on Our Texas magazine in 2007 for black history month.