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Bethlehem, Pa., April 15, 2008—Birmingham, Alabama was the most segregated city in American in the early 1960s. When the civil right movement took root there, it wasn't just grown men and women who faced dogs, fire hoses and arrest for speaking out against institutionalized racism. In his new book When the Children Marched: The Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (Enslow Publishing, 2008), Moravian professor of education Robert Mayer describes how school children not only participated in the marches and protests, but how their heroic actions inspired and strengthened the African-American community in Birmingham and beyond. The book, intended for middle and high school social studies classes, is replete with photographs and interview excerpts evoking the time before, during, and shortly after the historic protests. It's also filled with fascinating details—that "a hot luncheon" was a code phrase used by local radio disc jockeys to alert students that a planning session was being held, for example.
Surprisingly for a period in recent history that's so well documented, there aren't any other books about children's participation in the civil rights movement written specifically for young people. To professor Mayer, it's a perfect way to get young students interested in social studies. “I wanted a topic that included young people, because I knew that would be engaging for young readers,” says professor Mayer. “I want young people to see there were real people involved in these events, so I strived to convey as many voices in the book as possible, especially young people's voices.” It's his hope, he says, that his readers will not only become educated about the facts of history, they'll be inspired to participate in improving their world. “I'm hoping they'll look at these events and see the people involved with changing things, and want to become more involved themselves,” he says. “And that they'll see how nonviolence is a powerful method for change.”
Mayer who is professor of education and advisor for the historical studies major, edited The Civil Rights Act of 1964, part of Greenwood Press’s Opposing Viewpoints: At Issue in History series. The book won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies for the most distinguished social science books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States.
Mayer writes on educational subjects for publications such as Social Education, Magazine of History, The Social Studies, and Teacher Education Quarterly; and on historical subjects for youth publications such as Cobblestone magazine including Anne Hutchinson, an early American feminist, and on African-American voting rights.
Currently the chair of the Education Department at Moravian, Mayer coordinates the secondary education program and supervises secondary student teachers. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on a number of topics including the historical and philosophical foundations of education and on reflective methods for secondary teachers and social studies teachers. His current research focuses on improving the teaching of History. Mayer completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati, his masters degree at Xavier University, and his Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.