Dr. Mary Frances Berry, American historian, writer, lawyer, activist and professor.

By Monique Gooch

American historian, writer, lawyer, activist and professor. Nashville native Dr. Mary Frances Berry, 83, next week is releasing her latest book, “History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times.”

Berry will be signing copies of her book at Belmont University on Sept. 19, and speaking about how to make diversity more effective. And the way to make it more effective is to engage in resistant movements. 

The event is titled, “Making Diversity and Inclusion More Effective.” Berry said of the upcoming lecture, “I am going to tell them how diversity came into existence. Is there an effective way to end white supremacy? Yes! The major way we’ve done it is through the Civil Rights movement. We have to be able to organize, and demand, and hold people accountable.”

Berry said she decided to write the book way back when Trump was president. “I was tired of all the people complaining. So, I said well, what you need to do is look at the history on how we made change. Make politicians respond to you. That’s what the free South Africa movement was about. That’s what BLM (Black Lives Matter) is about. You have to organize. I wrote the book to show people the past protest has worked.”

Berry said that non-violent resistance can and will work. “You should support things like BLM, the NAACP, and coalition with other people, whoever wants to end white supremacy and racist capitalism.”

When asked what does she want people to take away from this book, Berry said, “Non-violent resistance and organized resistance have worked in the past and there is concrete evidence that it has worked.” 

 She said when you stop, that’s when things get worse. “Until you get it done, you just have to be persistent. All you have to do is understand how to do it. The book also explains how to do it. You can make the kinda social change that we need.”

This book is for everyone. Berry said everyone should read this book. “I use to write things that other scholars could read. In the last 20 to 30 years, I started writing things that ordinary people could read. I try to make it accessible. Not just some kinda scholarly jargon. The book is in plain language for anybody who is interested in making social change.”

If you are a teacher, this book also works well in the classroom. “This book should be taught in American history because everybody needs to read it. The project of getting rid of white supremacy is the duty of everyone in society and it is complicit. It should be taught in any kind of a social change or anything group that has to do with organizing.”

Berry also has also written “My Face Is Black Is True.” It is set in1898 about a former slave, Callie House from Tennessee. According to Berry, people have used this book in classes all the time in discussions about reparations. “Students love this Callie House book because it gives context on when she was enslaved and when she came out. It’s a highly readable book that graduates love to read.”

Berry said she wants people to leave people inspired to know that positive change has been made through struggle. “The problems we have are enormous. We need to be rid of white supremacy and racist capitalism so we can have equality and justice. We can do it. We should not despair.”

 Her latest book, “History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times” can be found at any bookstore, or on Amazon. Berry will be at Belmont for three days as a Scholar in Residence, visiting with faculty, staff, and the administration to discuss how we can work together to make diversity and inclusion more effective—both personally and professionally.

Dr. Charmion Gustke, first-year Seminar Ambassador, says,“Our First-Year students are arriving at Belmont during a most unusual time and it is my hope that Dr. Berry will share a message that resonates with their lived experience, inspiring them to face the challenges ahead with resilience and the courage needed to resist social injustices.” 

To attend this event, “Making Diversity and Inclusion More Effective” 

Admission is free and open to the public at Belmont University at The Curb Event Center on Sept.19, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM. Dr. Berry will sign books following her lecture.