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Starting with its formation in 1957 by President Eisenhower, Berry (Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, Univ. of Pennsylvania), brilliantly scans the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights' origins, challenges, and accomplishments, particularly during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. The Commission's public hearings, reports, and extended jurisdiction were instrumental in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Age Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Berry, who chaired the Commission for 11 years, includes some very disturbing and heart-rending testimonies from government witnesses and local people amid attacks from Southern segregationists, death threats, and fear of reprisal. She also covers her ideological differences with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; she resigned from the Commission in 2004. She raises provocative questions regarding the relationship between the Commission and Congress, shrewdly arguing for the Commission's enduring significance, and recommending that it be reorganized, independent, and with a mandate that will include all aspects of human rights and promotion of "liberty and justice for all." This incisive and comprehensive analysis of the Commission supplements other major works on the Civil Rights Movement. With excellent source notes, it is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.
—Edward G. McCormack