Famed EEOC Leader Dead at 53


By Robert Stitt

Death stalks all of us; it is said that the journey to the grave starts with our first breath. As such, the most any of us can ask for in this life is to die doing what we love. Jacqueline Berrien,  President Obama’s chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, did just that. Berrien had cancer and fell ill while participating in the N.A.A.C.P.’s Journey for Justice march. If you have any doubts, consider the words of her husband, Peter M. Williams, the executive vice president for programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “Her last act was doing what she loved: civil rights.”

Berrien was no stranger to civil rights challenges. She lived them, lived through them, and fought to put and end to them. She was a graduate of Harvard Law School and was the editor of The Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. According to the NY Times, she clerked for a federal judge and held other legal positions in the civil rights community until, in 1994, she became an associate director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, focusing on voting rights and school desegregation litigation. In addition to her work in the marketplace, Berrien taught at Harvard Law School and New York Law School. Michelle Obama lauded her “leadership and passion for ensuring everyone gets a fair chance to succeed in the workplace.”

One of the things that set Berrien apart was her ability to look into the future and work toward a better tomorrow. While many took a short-sighted, action-now approach, she wanted to ensure that the proper foundation was laid. She also took her actions very personally. In a 2011 interview, she said it like this: “Will the workplace be more inclusive and discrimination less common when my children, my godchildren, or my nieces and nephews enter it?…Our ultimate success will manifest in decades. It will be measured by how different life is for someone who is a child today.”

During Berrien’s tenure at the EEOC, she fought to protect discriminated peoples from bias on the basis of ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disabilities and religious beliefs. She leaves behind some large shoes.



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There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Sylvia at 2:58 pm

    What a great example. Very successful doing what she loved and leaving a positive mark on our society. I am trying to make a small mark on the world as I am the same age and she is quite an inspiration. I am sure she will be missed.

  2. Michael at 3:30 pm

    It is not how long you live. It is what you do while you live. Truly we have lost a great woman for change. My prayers goes out to your family an friends..

  3. ANEESAH Furqan-Peace at 3:42 pm


    Following is a euology for our beloved Jackie!


    Of late I’ve said to myself, “I don’t think there is anyone else championing Black American and Afrikan Continential Civil Rights, Exploitation, and Economic Development Discrimination; nor the Dismantling of White Supremacist Indoctrination – THE – Holocaust – FOR BLACKS CITIZENS* IN * AMERICA*Today*UNDER THE COMMON *DESIGN* OF $$$! USA STATE SANCTIONED DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA. IS $$$ MODERN DAY SLAVERY**YES** MISS JACKIE and I, both, (as she was known to get Beloved Community and also my name sake) Identified this connection…..

    MRS. JACQUELINE BERRIN: Remembering ~ She fought desperately to create a Wholesome and Better World for Our Black Babies, Children, and Parents!

    May God Reward Her Journey With All Her Desires and may she interceed affectionately on our behalf.

  4. Ariel at 7:53 pm

    I meet Ms. Berrien shortly after she assumed her postion with the EEOC. I found her to be personable, smart and about the business of justice for all.
    May she rest in peace and all her struggles in the march to elimate all discrimination be remembered.

  5. Leola Canada at 1:12 pm

    I didn’t know this remarkable Leader in the Fight for Civil Rights, however she is in the Hands of our Lord nie Resting in Peace! God Rest her Soul!Amen

  6. Mzz TLove at 4:10 am

    Tomorrow is a sorrow today can never erase. God Bless the Heavens receive you. Your legacy will forever be imprinted on the staircase of broken hearts you’ve left behind. Women Empowering Women Network Salute you!!

  7. John at 7:47 pm

    The NAACP, BARACK OBAMA and is was the Southside of Chicago that made him and he has done nothing, group like Rahn Emmauel (A Ballerina Dancer…Yes, he was in the Ballet), and those Upity Blacks only help their clique. The do nothing for the poor average Black and the NACCP, Urban League and EEOC do nothing but use Blacks as numbers and never help us.

    Nobody knew who Obama was until his church Trinity Made him, again, he turned his back on the community and church that made him. $20 Million to keep dollars from the pharmactical companies for the OB Care. Child, Bye. His forefathers didn’t pick cotton, nor were enslaved, lynch , etc and his white family were not of caliber or status.

    EEOC and Department of Human Rights are jokes for Black Americans.

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