Gary May

Professor Emeritus of History, University of Delaware
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About Gary

May’s research and writing has focused on American political and diplomatic history since 1945. Specifically, he has examined the extra-legal methods used by government agencies and their impact on individuals and American civil liberties generally. His recent work on the Voting Rights Act is both a history of how the Act originated, its impact on American democracy, and a case for its preservation as an instrument to fight modern voter suppression movements. As for civic and professional activities, he worked with the Public Citizen Litigation Group in 1985 to force the government to declassify secret grand jury records pertaining to the 1950 indictment of William Remington for perjury (federal grand jury records are sealed in perpetuity unless a federal judge orders them opened, and none had ever been unsealed for “historical purposes”). May put aside his research for the next fifteen months to work with lawyers on preparing a petition (actually several volumes of historical and legal memoranda) which was submitted to the U.S. District court for the Second Circuit in New York. After a lengthy court struggle, U.S. District Court Judge Whitman Knapp sided with the group and ordered that the records be unsealed, which established a precedent that later historians would use to win access to the grand jury records in the Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White cases and, in 2008, the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.


In the News

Quoted by Andy Fell in "UCD's May, Lund Elected to National Academy of Engineering," Davis Enterprise, February 9, 2018.
Opinion: "The Presidential Debates Will Almost Surely Decide the Election," Gary May, The Daily Beast, August 14, 2016.
Opinion: "Make the Candidates Talk about Voting Rights in Tonight’s Debate," Gary May, Bill Moyers, February 25, 2016.
Opinion: "Dear Anderson Cooper: Make the Candidates Talk about Voting Rights," Gary May, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2016.
Quoted by Saranac Hale Spencer in "Battered but Not Broken, the Voting Rights Act Turns 50," Delaware Online, August 5, 2015.
Opinion: "Remembering a Tragic Anniversary: Viola Liuzzo," Gary May, Moyers and Company, March 25, 2015.
Opinion: "The Almost Forgotten Selma March," Gary May, Daily Beast, March 20, 2015.
Quoted by Marty Roney in "'Bloody Sunday' Altered History of a Horrified Nation," USA Today, March 3, 2015.
Opinion: "The Riot That Sparked the Selma March," Gary May, Daily Beast, February 18, 2015.
Opinion: "Martin Luther King's Compromise That Turned the South Red," Gary May, Daily Beast, January 19, 2015.
Opinion: "The Flawed History of 'Selma'," Gary May, News Journal, January 16, 2015.
Quoted by Alvin Benn in "'Selma': Historian Sees Discrepancies," Montgomery Advisor, January 5, 2015.
Quoted by Jennifer Schuessler in "Depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson in 'Selma' Raises Hackles," New York Times, December 31, 2014.
Opinion: "Over 48 Years, GOP Strays Far from Voting Rights," Gary May,, August 7, 2013.
Guest on MSNBC's The Cycle, August 6, 2013.
Opinion: "Reconstruction 3.0: Can Moral Monday Help Counteract SCOTUS?," Gary May, Salon, August 5, 2013.
Interviewed in "Gary May on The Long Assault on Our Voting Rights," Moyers & Company, July 12, 2013.
Guest on Huffpost Live, June 26, 2013.
Opinion: "How Segregation Got Busted," Gary May,, June 24, 2013.
Opinion: "Scalia’s Limited Understanding of the Voting Rights Act," Gary May, The Washington Post, April 26, 2013.
Guest on The Tavis Smiley Show, April 19, 2013.
Opinion: "Towards a New History of the Civil Rights Movement," Gary May, George Mason University’s History News Network, April 15, 2013.
Guest on UDaily, April 15, 2013.
Opinion: "How to Fight Voter Suppression," Gary May, Salon, March 7, 2013.
Opinion: "Could SCOTUS Indirectly Help the Civil Rights Movement?," Gary May, Salon, March 4, 2013.
Guest on KCRW’s To the Point with Warren Olney, February 27, 2013.
Opinion: "A Cautionary Tale," Gary May, Baltimore Sun, June 13, 2005.
Guest on The Leonard Lopate Show, June 1, 2005.
Guest on C-SPAN’s Book TV, 2009.


"Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy" (Basic Books, 2013).
Gives a history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its impact on American democracy.
"John Tyler: The American Presidents Series" (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2008).
Offers a short biography of the tenth U.S. President, the first to assume the presidency after the death of his predecessor, President William Henry Harrison.
"The Informant: The FBI, the Ku Klux Klan and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo" (Yale University Press, 2005).
Presents a study of Gary Thomas Rowe’s career as an FBI informant in the 1960s Alabama Klan and his involvement in attacks on civil rights.
"Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington" (Oxford University Press, 1994).
Profiles William Walter Remington, who was driven from government service in 1948 because of accusations that he was a Soviet agent; later convicted of perjury and sentenced to Lewisburg Penitentiary, he was murdered by inmates in 1954.
"China Scapegoat: The Diplomatic Ordeal of John Carter Vincent" (New Republic Books, 1979).
Profiles John Carter Vincent, a career Foreign Service Officer and “old China hand,” who shaped U.S.-China policy from 1924-1953 and played a key role in persuading Secretary of State George C. Marshall and President Harry S. Truman to avoid direct involvement in the Chinese Civil War, 1945-1949.