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Dr. Mary Frances  Berry

Dr. Mary Frances Berry

Author, Activist, Educator & Historian

Biography

For more than four decades, Dr. Mary Frances Berry has been one of the most visible and respected activists in the cause of civil rights, gender equality and social justice. Serving as Chairperson of the US Civil Rights Commission, Dr. Berry led the charge for equal rights and liberties for all Americans over the course of four Presidential administrations. A trailblazer for women and African-Americans alike, she also became the first woman of any race to head a major research university as Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches the history of American law and the history of law and social policy. Read More >

Dr. Berry made history as one of the founders of the monumental Free South Africa Movement (FSAM). She received the Nelson Mandela award from the South African Government for her role in organizing the FSAM, raising global awareness of South African injustice that helped to end over 40 years of apartheid. She also served as Assistant Secretary for Education in the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, working to make these historically inequitable systems achieve a new level of fairness. A prolific author, Dr. Berry’s books cover a wide range of subjects, from the history of constitutional racism in America to the history of progressive activism. Her latest  book, History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times, examines the successful tactics of movements that ended the Vietnam War, jumpstarted government response to the AIDS epidemic, championed the Americans with Disabilities Act and advanced civil, women’s and LGBTQ rights—all of which she was a part of.  Her previous book, Power in Words: The Stories behind Barack Obama’s Speeches, from the State House to the White House, offers insight and historical context of President Obama’s most memorable speeches.

A moving speaker who makes history come alive, Dr. Berry believes that each generation has the responsibility to make a dent in the wall of injustice. She continues to speak boldly for those who can’t speak for themselves and motivates all of us to take action. Her clarion call challenges everyone to stand up, stand tall and to never give up the fight. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Spreading Liberty and Justice for All

Mary's Interview on the Tavis Smiley Show

Speech Topics

Mary Frances Berry’s How-to Handbook for Achieving Political Change

President Trump is by far not the first president to oppose progressive issues and policies. In fact, FDR, LBJ and Clinton were on the opposing side of issues ranging from desegregating the military to the Vietnam War to marriage equality. Drawing from her latest book, History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times, Mary Frances Berry shares the winning tactics of successful movements that ended the Vietnam War, jumpstarted government response to the AIDS epidemic, championed the Americans with Disabilities Act and advanced civil, women’s and LGBTQ rights—all of which she was a part of. Speaking as both a renowned historian and courageous activist that locked arms at sit-ins and served time in jail, Dr. Berry chronicles more than 50 years of progressive victories and the winning tactics behind them. Believing that “people shouldn’t think that they can’t succeed now,” she reveals what works, what doesn’t—and what we all must do to achieve change in our communities, country and world.

Fulfilling the Promise of the Voting Rights Act: Justice for All

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement, the product of sacrifice, protests, lawsuits and legislation. In 2013 civil rights activists were stunned to see one of its key provisions invalidated by the Supreme Court. Dr. Mary Frances Berry, a civil rights veteran, looks at the impact of this decision, how it affected the 2016 presidential election, and how we must continue to fight against voter identification laws and other forms of voter suppression. Long concerned with how voter suppression and fraud in national, state and local campaigns influence the results, she examines how goals such as Medicaid expansion, fairness in sentencing, equitable education funding and fair and effective policing will remain elusive until we increase political participation and fairly enforce the voting rights laws.

Achieving Diversity & Opportunity in the 21st Century: “Now is the Time”

“Repairing the Past”: Confronting the Legacies of Slavery

Race, Protest & Politics: Where Do We Go From Here

Protest is an Essential Ingredient of Politics: From Resistance Theory to Action

Higher Education Admissions Since Bakke: Who Wins & Who Loses