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Past Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry to Talk Nov. 9

November 7, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Mary Frances Berry - who successfully sued President Reagan for firing her from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for criticizing his policies and was reinstated to her position - will deliver a lecture titled “Whatever Happened to the Struggle for Racial Justice?” Thursday, Nov. 9, at Northwestern University.

The admission-free, public lecture will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Room 108 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, on Northwestern's Evanston campus. A reception will follow.

Berry, the University's 2006 Allison Davis Lecturer, was named chair of the civil rights commission by President Clinton. During her eleven-year tenure as its leader, the commission issued numerous important reports, including ones on the 2000 Florida presidential elections, police practices in New York City, environmental justice, affirmative action, church burnings and conditions on Indian reservations.

Now professor of American social thought and history at the University of Pennsylvania, Berry is a regular media commentator on National Public Radio and author of “My Face is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (Alfred Knopf, 2005) and “The “Pig Farmers' Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice: Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to the Present” (Alfred Knopf, 1999).

In the 1980s, Berry was a founder of the Free South Africa Movement that instigated protests at the South African Embassy. She was arrested and jailed several times in the struggle for democracy in South Africa, and met Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison in 1990.

Berry has received more than 30 honorary doctoral degrees in recognition of her scholarship and public service. She also is winner of numerous other honors, including the NAACP's Roy Wilkins Award, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Rosa Parks Award, the American bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award and Ebony magazine's Black Achievement Award. The Women's Hall of Fame named her one of the women of the century.

The Allison Davis Lecture is sponsored by Northwestern's African American studies department and honors Davis, a distinguished African American scholar and author who, in 1948, became one of the first African Americans to receive tenure at a non-historically Black institution. Like Berry, he was a member of the Commission on Civil Rights (under Nixon and Johnson). Previous Davis Lecturers have included Patricia Williams, William Julius Wilson and inaugural lecturer Leon Forrest.

For further information about the 2006 Allison Davis Lecture, call (847) 491-7561.

Topics: Campus Life