Oral history interview with Mary Frances Berry
(Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material)

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Special Collections - Closed Stacks
SCC oral histories
Special Collections - Closed Stacks
Workroom range 1 section 8


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Special Collections - Closed StacksSCC oral historiesLibrary Use Only
Special Collections - Closed StacksWorkroom range 1 section 8Library Use Only

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Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material
Physical Desc
3 sound discs : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
2 sound cassettes (ca. 71 min.) : analog.
Transcript : 46 pages


General Note
Materials housed in Special Collections Division of the Main Library, Nashville Public Library.
General Note
The interview consists of a transcript and sound recordings in two formats: 2 original audio cassettes recorded in 2003; and a set of 3 data CDs containing MP3 files (a master, a copy master, and a use copy). The original cassettes were digitized during a conversion project in 2006.
Restrictions on Access
In library use only. Available by appointment.
Scope and content: Oral history interview with Nashville Civil Rights Movement participant Mary Frances Berry, conducted on 5 September 2003 by John Egerton as part of the Nashville Public Library's Civil Rights Oral History Project. During the 1 hour and 11 minute interview, Berry discusses such topics as her childhood and education, including her experiences in a Nashville orphanage called Buva College; Nashville neighborhoods and businesses; segregation in transportation and facilities; going to church; attending Pearl High School; the Brown decision and its impact; her involvement in the Free South Africa Movement and experiences with Nelson and Winnie Mandela; her service on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; and her involvement with Pacifica Public Radio in San Francisco.
Preferred Citation of Described Materials
Cite as: Oral history interview with Mary Frances Berry, Civil Rights Oral History Project, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code)
Biographical or Historical Data
Author, scholar, and activist Mary Frances Berry was born in 1938 and grew up in Nashville, where she and her brother spent time at the Buva College Rescue Home and Training School for Negro Children. Berry has been the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania since 1987. She attended Howard University and 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 seven books, including 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). Between 1977 and 1980, Berry served as the Assistant Secretary for Education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). Berry was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement in the 1980s which instigated protests at the South African Embassy in the successful struggle for democracy in South Africa. She was arrested and jailed several times in the cause. She was in Capetown on February 11, 1990 to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from Robben Island. Appointed by President Carter, from 1980 to 2004, Berry was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She was fired by President Reagan, but sued him and won reinstatement in Federal district court. Berry served as Chair of the Commission from 1993-2004, when she resigned. During Dr. Berry's tenure as Chairperson, the Commission issued a number of significant reports including 2000 Florida Presidential Elections, police practices in New York City, environmental justice, percentage plans and affirmative action, church burnings, and conditions on Indian reservations. She has also served as Provost of the University of Maryland and Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Berry has received 32 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. Berry also served as chair of Pacifica Public Radio in San Francisco.
In English.
Cumulative Index/Finding Aids
Transcript available in repository.
Linking Entry Complexity
Forms part of: Civil Rights Oral History Project.


APA Citation (style guide)

Berry, M. F., & Egerton, J. Oral history interview with Mary Frances Berry .

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Berry, Mary Frances and John, Egerton. Oral History Interview With Mary Frances Berry. .

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Berry, Mary Frances and John, Egerton. Oral History Interview With Mary Frances Berry .

MLA Citation (style guide)

Berry, Mary Frances,, and John Egerton. Oral History Interview With Mary Frances Berry

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of August 2021. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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