May

Gary May

Professor Emeritus of History, University of Delaware
Areas of Expertise:
  • Law & Courts
  • Social Movements
  • Voting

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. May considers his role in this case to be one of his proudest achievements.

Podcast

Publications

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.
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.
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.
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.

In the News

Gary May quoted in Andy Fell, "UCD's May, Lund Elected to National Academy of Engineering" Davis Enterprise, February 9, 2018.
"The Presidential Debates Will Almost Surely Decide the Election," Gary May, The Daily Beast, August 14, 2016.
"Make the Candidates Talk about Voting Rights in Tonight’s Debate," Gary May, Bill Moyers, February 25, 2016.
"Dear Anderson Cooper: Make the Candidates Talk about Voting Rights," Gary May, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2016.
Gary May quoted on the legacy of the Voting Rights Act in Saranac Hale Spencer, "Battered but Not Broken, the Voting Rights Act Turns 50" Delaware Online, August 5, 2015.
"Remembering a Tragic Anniversary: Viola Liuzzo," Gary May, Moyers and Company, March 25, 2015.
"The Almost Forgotten Selma March," Gary May, Daily Beast, March 20, 2015.
"The Riot That Sparked the Selma March," Gary May, Daily Beast, February 18, 2015.
Gary May quoted on the impact of the Bloody Sunday march in Marty Roney, "'Bloody Sunday' Altered History of a Horrified Nation" USA Today, March 3, 2015.
"Martin Luther King's Compromise That Turned the South Red," Gary May, Daily Beast, January 19, 2015.
"The Flawed History of 'Selma'," Gary May, News Journal, January 16, 2015.
Gary May quoted on the historical accuracy of the movie 'Selma' in Alvin Benn, "'Selma': Historian Sees Discrepancies" Montgomery Advisor, January 5, 2015.
Gary May quoted on criticism of the film "Selma" in Jennifer Schuessler, "Depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson in 'Selma' Raises Hackles" New York Times, December 31, 2014.
"Over 48 Years, GOP Strays Far from Voting Rights," Gary May, CNN.com, August 7, 2013.
Guest to discuss the past and future of the Voting Rights Act on MSNBC's The Cycle, Gary May, August 6, 2013.
"Gary May on The Long Assault on Our Voting Rights," Gary May, Interview with Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company, July 12, 2013.
Guest to discuss the effects of the Supreme Court's ruling on Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Huffpost Live, Gary May, June 26, 2013.
Gary May's research on his history of the Voting Rights Act, particularly the Martin Luther King, Jr.-led march from Selma to Montgomery discussed in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Gary May, "Dissenting Opinion: Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder," Supreme Court of the United States, June 25, 2013.
"How Segregation Got Busted," Gary May, CNN.com, June 24, 2013.
Guest to discuss his book on Viola Liuzzo on WPR’s Ideas Network Program with Kathleen Dunn, Gary May, March 25, 2005.
Guest to discuss “The Informant” on The Leonard Lopate Show, Gary May, June 1, 2005.
"A Cautionary Tale," Gary May, Baltimore Sun, June 13, 2005.
"The Informant," Gary May, Interview with Steve Chiotakis, WBHM’s Tapestry, June 23, 2005.
Guest to discuss “The Informant” on WILL am 580 with Celeste Quinn, Gary May, July 4, 2005.
Guest to discuss his book on John Tyler on C-SPAN’s Book TV, Gary May, 2009.
Guest to discuss his new book on the Voting Rights Act and the Act’s recent review in the Supreme Court on KCRW’s To the Point with Warren Olney, Gary May, February 27, 2013.
"How to Fight Voter Suppression," Gary May, Salon, March 7, 2013.
"Towards a New History of the Civil Rights Movement," Gary May, George Mason University’s History News Network, April 15, 2013.
Guest to discuss his new book and the future of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on The Tavis Smiley Show, Gary May, April 19, 2013.
Guest to discuss his newest book and the future of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on UDaily, Gary May, April 15, 2013.
"Scalia’s Limited Understanding of the Voting Rights Act," Gary May, The Washington Post, April 26, 2013.
"Lawmakers Have Opportunity to Transform Voting," Gary May (with Avi Green), Delaware News Journal, May 28, 2013.