Additional Information on Mary Frances Berry

Additional Information on Mary Frances Berry


According to Linda Chavez, who served alongside Berry on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Berry is an ill-tempered individual who “once bullied a member of the commission staff so badly — in words not fit to print in a family newspaper” — that Chavez subsequently told Berry in a memo: “Your use of intimidating curses and vile language as well as your overall abuse of a subordinate go far beyond permissible behavior. If you repeat such abusive behavior in the future, I will ask you to remove yourself from the premises and will seek to have you removed if you do not comply.”

Washington Monthly reports that when Berry was Assistant Secretary of Education (under President Jimmy Carter) from 1977-80, officials in the Department of Education cut her out of policy decisions because “she’d shatter consensus and jeopardize initiatives … she distrusted people [so] as to not be trustworthy herself …” A former Carter aide told Salon News in 1999: “Oh, I remember Mary. She was a real loose cannon. We spent a lot of time smoothing over things after she’d opened her big mouth.”

* Berry has authored the following booksFive 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). 

* Berry has received 35 honorary doctoral degrees and many awards, including the NAACP‘s Roy Wilkins Award, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference‘s Rosa Parks Award, Ebony magazine’s Black Achievement Award, and the Organization of American Historians‘ Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award.

* The Sienna College Research Institute and the Women’s Hall of Fame designated Berry as one of “America’s Women of the [20th] Century.” Moreover, Berry is one of 75 women featured in the 1999 bookI Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.

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