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IU Northwest to host Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m.

Berry, who once was fired from the civil rights commission by President Reagan but won reinstatement in federal court, visits campus for Black History Month program

On Thursday, Feb. 28, Indiana University Northwest will welcome Mary Frances Berry, Ph.D., former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to campus as part of the university’s annual Black History Month celebration.

This free program will begin at 6 p.m. in the Savannah Center Auditorium, located in the Savannah Center at the southeast corner of the main campus parking lot at 33rd Avenue and Broadway in Gary, Ind.

Berry, who is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and a professor of history at Penn State University, served as assistant secretary of education under President Jimmy Carter. In this capacity, she acted as the general supervisor of federal education programs.

Carter later appointed Berry to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She subsequently was fired by President Ronald Reagan for criticizing his civil rights policies, but she won reinstatement in federal court. President Bill Clinton appointed Berry as commission chair in 1993, and she served one full six-year term and most of a second term before resigning her post in 2004.

Berry was also one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement, which instigated protests at the South African Embassy during the struggle for democracy in that nation. Berry was arrested and jailed several times during the cause.

Prior to her service in U.S. government, Berry served as provost at the University of Maryland, College Park, and then as chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Berry attended Howard University, received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan, and later graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. Berry is currently a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

As a published author, Berry has seven books to her credit, including “The Pig Farmer’s Daughter and Other Tales of Law and Justice”; “Race and Sex in the Courts, 1865 to Present”; “The Politics of Parenthood: Child Care, Women’s Rights, and the Myth of the Good Mother”; and “The Black Experience in America,” with co-author John W. Blassingame. Berry will attend a book-signing event at IU Northwest following her Feb. 28 presentation.

Berry’s efforts on behalf of civil rights and her contributions to the discipline of history have earned her numerous awards and professional distinctions.

She was elected by her peers as vice president of the American Historical Association and as president of the Organization of American Historians. She has received an NAACP Image Award, the Rosa Parks Award of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Ebony Magazine Black Achievement Award, and the American Bar Association’s American Spirit of Excellence Award, among others.

IU Northwest is pleased to welcome Mary Frances Berry to Northwest Indiana for what promises to be an insightful presentation on the state of civil rights in America today. Please join us as we celebrate Black History Month at IU Northwest.

For more information on this event, contact the IU Northwest Office of Diversity and Equity at (219) 980-6705. For more information on this speaker, please visit



Media Contact:

Christopher Sheid

Michelle Searer

American Program Bureau
Penn State Professor of History Mary Frances Berry, Ph.D.
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