Source of biography: U.S. Civil Rights Commission at:
Mary Frances Berry became Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on November 19, 1993. An Independent, she was reappointed to the Commission by the President [Clinton] in January 1999.

Dr. Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Vice Chair of the Civil Rights Commission in 1980-82, and has been a Commissioner since that time.

Dr. Berry was the 1990-91 president of the Organization of American Historians. She served as the Assistant Secretary for Education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from April 1977 until January 1980. For a period she also served as Acting U.S. Commissioner on Education.

As Assistant Secretary for Education, Dr. Berry headed the Education Division of HEW and administered an annual budget of nearly $13 billion. In this role, she coordinated and gave general supervision to the National Institute of Education, the Office of Education, the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, the Institute of Museum Services, and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Prior to her service at HEW, Dr. Berry was Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder where she was also professor of History and Law. She was Provost of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, prior to her selection as Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has held faculty appointments at Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Michigan, and Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee, where she attended public schools. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Howard University, a doctorate in history from the University of Michigan, and the juris doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. She is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia.

Dr. Berry has received 31 honorary doctoral degrees and numerous awards for her public service and scholarly activities, including the NAACP's Roy Wilkins Award, the Rosa Parks Award of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Ebony Magazine Black Achievement Award. She is one of 75 women featured in I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America. Sienna College Research Institute and the Women's Hall of Fame designated her one of "America's Women of the Century."

Dr. Berry is the author of a number of articles and essays as well as seven books including The Pig Farmer's Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice: Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to the Present; Long Memory: The Black Experience in America (with co-author John W. Blassingame); Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution; and The Politics of Parenthood: Child Care, Women's Rights and the Myth of the Good Mother.