Mary Frances Berry

Mary Berry

Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought Emerita

U.S. constitutional and legal, African-American


Mary Frances Berry became the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History in 1987. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan and JD from the University of Michigan Law School. She is the author of twelve books including Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich: Vote Buying and the Corruption of Democracy (2016); We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family's Search for Home Across the Atlantic World (2014); Power in Words: The Stories behind Barack Obama's Speeches, from the State House to the White House with Josh Gottheimer (2010), And Justice For All: The United States Commission On Civil Rights And the Struggle For Freedom in America (2009); My Face is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (2005); The Pig Farmer's Daugher and Other Tales of American Justice: Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to the Present (1999); Black Resistance, White Law: A History of Constitutional Racism in America (1994, orig. 1971); The Politics of Parenthood: Child Care, Women's Rights, and the Myth of the Good Mother(1993); Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution (1986); Long Memory: The Black Experience in America, with John Blassingame (1982); and Military Necessity and Civil Rights Policy: Black Citizenship and the Constitution, 1861-1868 (1977).

Professor Berry has had a distinguished career in public service. From 1980 to 2004, she was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and from 1993-2004 served as Chair. Between 1977 and 1980, Dr. Berry served as the Assistant Secretary for Education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). She has also served as Provost of the University of Maryland and Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

In recognition of her scholarship and public service, Professor Berry has received 35 honorary doctoral degrees and many awards, 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." In 1990-91 she was President of the Organization of American Historians. She is a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and of the National Academy of Public Administration and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society for Legal History. She is a recipient of the Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award of the Organization of American Historians.


Ph.D. University of Michigan

J.D. University of Michigan Law School

B.A. Howard University