Mary Frances Berry
The Graduate School
Mary Frances Berry, PhD
Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and History, University of Pennsylvania
There are few people like Mary Frances Berry, PhD. For over four decades, Berry has been one of the most recognized and respected voices in our nation’s civil rights, gender equality, and social justice movements. Serving as chairperson of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, she 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, Berry became the first woman of any race to head a major research university, serving at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Berry is a leader in the fight against inequality. One of the founders of the monumental Free South Africa Movement, Berry and her organization were instrumental in raising global awareness and abhorrence towards South African injustice, helping to end over 40 years of apartheid. She also served as assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, working to make these historically inequitable systems achieve a new level of fairness. A prolific author, Berry’s books cover a wide range of subjects, from the history of constitutional racism in America to the politics of parenthood. Her most recent 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. She is a professor of American social thought at the University of Pennsylvania.
Despite her years of success, Berry is never one to rest on her laurels. She continues to speak boldly for those who can’t speak for themselves. Her vision of social freedom and equality alongside her wisdom and candor have solidified her place in the quest for equality. With fierce determination, Berry never backs down. She educates, transforms, and inspires everyone she meets with. Her clarion call challenges everyone to stand up, stand tall, and to never give up the fight.