Berry, Mary Frances

Berry, Mary Frances

(1938–  ) historian, educator, government official; born in Nashville, Tenn. A graduate of Howard University, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, taught history at several colleges and was active in the civil rights movement while earning her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. In 1970 she moved to Maryland as the acting director of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland. There she wrote, joined the bar in the District of Columbia, and was promoted to a provost at the College Park campus. In 1976 she became chancellor of the University of Colorado: Boulder; she took a leave of absence to become the assistant secretary for education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare at the request of President Jimmy Carter (1977–80). She was the first African-American woman to achieve any one of those positions of leadership. A member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (1980), in 1984 she successfully sued President Ronald Reagan, preventing him from firing her from the Commission. Widely honored, she taught at several universities, and published several books including the coauthored Long Memory (1982), a history of African-Americans.