Marching On

Just in time for its 40th anniversary, Robert Mayer has edited a book of source material on the Civil Rights Act of 1964—a landmark piece of legislation from an era that continues to fascinate and challenge him.

Bob, who is professor of education and advisor for the historical studies major, was asked to edit The Civil Rights Act of 1964, part of Greenwood Press’s Opposing Viewpoints: At Issue in History series, after submitting a manuscript on the Birmingham civil rights marches of 1963.

The act was a key element in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policy to assure public equality to African-Americans. Though guaranteed full rights of citizenship by the 14th amendment to the Constitution, passed shortly after the end of the Civil War, the newly freed slaves found a host of obstacles in their way, designed to keep them separate and second-class.

Known throughout the Southern states as “Jim Crow” laws, these measures came after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, which enshrined the doctrine of “separate but equal” schools, housing, and public services. This led to segregated drinking fountains, bus-stop benches, and lunch-counter seating, and de facto segregation of public transportation, accommodations, entertainment, and housing developments.

The book is intended to supplement courses in American history and politics. It includes:

  • Speeches by President John F. Kennedy and Republican senator (and presidential candidate) Barry Goldwater, for and against the act.
  • The transcript of a U.S. Senate debate by Hubert Humphrey, a liberal Democrat from Minnesota, and Russell Long, a conservative Democrat from Louisiana
  • Essays (some very critical) about the act by African-American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, and John Lewis, a U.S. Representative from Georgia.

Bob 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. In its November issue, he wrote about Anne Hutchinson, an early American feminist. In March, he will have an article in it on African-American voting rights.