Mary Frances Berry


Biography of Mary Frances Berry

Mary Frances Berry (born February 17, 1938) is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. She is also the former board chair of Pacifica Radio. She is a past president of the Organization of American Historians, the primary professional organization for historians of the United States.

At Penn, Berry teaches American legal history. Before coming to Penn, Berry was provost of the College of Behavioral and Social Science at University of Maryland, College Park, and chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She received Ph.D. and J.D. degrees from the University of Michigan.

Berry was born on February 17, 1938, in Nashville, Tennessee. She was the second of the three children of George and Frances Berry. Because of economic hardship and family circumstances, she and her older brother were placed in an orphanage for a time.

Berry attended Nashville's segregated schools, graduating with honors from high school and attending Fisk University in Nashville, where her primary interests were philosophy, history, and chemistry. Berry transferred to Howard University, where she received her bachelor's degree. Following this, Berry studied at the University of Michigan, received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

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