It is with great sadness that we mark the death of Professor Gerald Meyer of Hostos Community College, the City University of New York. Professor Meyer’s varied research has resulted in almost one hundred articles and books elucidating various aspects of Italian America and working-class history as well as the intersections of radicalism and immigrants.
His biography Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902–1954 (SUNY Press, 1989)—now in its fourth printing—was instrumental in presenting a critical history of US Rep. Marcantonio and his service on behalf of his Harlem constituents, who included Italian Americans, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Professor Meyer also wrote about educator Leonard Covello, providing an afterword to the reprint of Covello’s The Heart Is the Teacher, published by the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute in 2013.
Meyer’s collection of essays, co-edited with Philip V. Cannistraro, The Lost World of Italian-American Radicalism (Praeger, 2003) grew out of the 1997 conference of the same title, which was hosted by the Calandra Institute. Both the conference and this subsequent publication filled a void in the study of Italian American history and culture by offering participants and readers a series of analytical and interpretive essays on radical Italian America. The Lost World of Italian-American Radicalism (which is the fruit of more than three generations of scholars working in the field) is the first work of its kind that has at its base the knowledge, intellectual expertise, and critical acumen of the who’s who of Italian American studies.
Gerry, as his friends and colleagues knew him, was also an activist. He was a founding member of the faculty at Hostos, and during the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s he served as the chair of the Save Hostos Committee, which succeeded in keeping the college open. Once retired, he co-founded The Circle of 100 Scholarship and Emergency Fund. For his advocacy and generosity to Hostos, Room B-115 of the college’s Building B was renamed the “Vito Marcantonio Conference Room” in his honor. He co-founded the Vito Marcantonio Forum, for which he was serving as co-chair at the time of his passing, and which is dedicated to documenting and teaching about the life and work of that great Italian American fighter for the working class.
Certainly as a scholar but also, and more importantly, as the caring individual he was, Gerry Meyer shall be dearly missed.