History Classes Should be Spaces of Empowerment instead of a Politicized Battlefield

On January 8, 1811, the largest slave insurrection in the history of the United States unfolded. I showed my students a piece of art depicting this when I taught what is now known as the 1811 German Coast Uprising. Despite it happening just outside New Orleans, where I teach, many students were unaware of this event. One kid noted that it was peculiar that this occurred so close to home yet remained relatively unknown. I told her that most textbooks or curricula often exclude the event. Another student raised his hand to ask, “why not?”

[1811 Revolt (Lorraine Gendron, 2000), Courtesy Historic New Orleans Collection]

Folks can speculate on why these events are neglected, but the impact of pushing these stories of resilience to the margins is clear: students suffer. As a history teacher, it’s imperative to teach this country’s history — scars and all. To teach a romanticized, comfortable version of our country’s history does our kids a grave disservice, as it denies both the truth and an opportunity to see examples of empowerment. When we teach how the US has fallen short of its professed ideals, we also highlight those who sought to rectify those shortcomings.

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The Urgent Need for Student-Affirming Classes Amid the Education Crisis

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released its annual “Nation’s Report Card,” a congressionally mandated report detailing the nation’s educational progress. The results were dire. Most U.S. states saw disturbing setbacks in math and reading across all demographics. In particular, reading scores declined in most states, with no states showing any considerable improvement. The drop was even more striking among the nation’s most vulnerable student populations.

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Teaching about Contemporary Controversies in High Schools and in University Teacher Education Programs

The AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom published research collectively conducted and written by Alan Singer, Chris Dier, Pablo Muriel, Adeola Tella Williams, and Cynthia Vitere.


Because secondary school teachers face intense scrutiny and censorship, either self-censorship or official restrictions, in their teaching about contemporary controversies, preparing preservice teachers and supporting in-service teachers has become a major focus of the Hofstra University teacher education program. This article originated as a panel session at the 2022 American Historical Association Conference. A teacher educator and four secondary school teachers discuss their fears in the current political climate and ways they try to address them.

Continue Reading at the AAUP Journal of Freedom.

Educators Have a Moral Obligation to Confront White Supremacy

Building Empathy With Students Isn’t Just One More Thing to Do

In one of my Advanced Placement classes in 2018, a freshman raised his hand to ask about the declining birthrates of white people in the United States. This occurred during a discussion about the demographic-transition model, which contributes to understanding and predicting demographic shifts by analyzing birthrates and death rates. The student had no idea that a conspiracy favored by white supremacists was the foundation for his question. It was only upon understanding that declining birthrates are a product of economic development and not an aberration specific to white America that he realized what he’d read online was false and written to mislead.

Like many students across the country, the student came across the “great replacement theory,” while browsing various internet discussion boards. French author Renaud Camus popularized the racist myth in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement, but it’s not new. The xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic sentiment dates back to 19th-century eugenicists, Ku Klux Klan ideology, and Nazi propaganda. It is based on a distortion of statistics, pseudo-history, and white supremacy and claims that Jews and “global elites” are intentionally “replacing” white people with people of non-European descent.

The theory continues to garner popularity among young white audiences on internet forums, seeping its way into mainstream political discourse. Some of its most ardent adherents claim that direct, violent action is necessary to ensure white people are not “replaced.” Adherence to replacement theory has inspired multiple domestic-terrorist attacks by white nationalists, including the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh; the 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas; and the shooting in May in Buffalo, N.Y.; as well as others abroad. These homegrown terrorists have one similarity: Each espoused in manifestos and online forums that they believed in the great replacement theory, among other racist myths.

Continue reading at Education Week

Deconstructing the “Great Replacement Theory”

White supremacists who commit these terrorist acts like the recent Buffalo massacre collectively believe in the “great replacement theory” (GRT) — a conspiracy that Jews & elites are replacing white people with non-Europeans. This myth is based on a distortion of statistics, pseudohistory, and white supremacism.

Declining birth rates for whites and immigration fears are driving GRT. Let’s look at the demographic transition model. This model assists with understanding and predicting demographics by analyzing birth rates and death rates. The model has five stages.

Stage 1: Before the Industrial Revolution, both birth rates and death rates are high, so the population remains relatively consistent — with the obvious exception of plagues and natural disasters.

Continue reading on Medium.

My Students Hosted a Walkout to Protest Transphobic Legislation; I Proudly Joined Them

Last Friday, I highlighted the activism of high school students in a lesson on the early civil rights movement. In 1951, 450 Black students at Moton High School in Virginia hosted walkouts to protest inequitable conditions stemming from school segregation.

The NAACP attached their cause with existing cases to challenge school segregation, resulting in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. After that lesson, a transgender student notified me that students were planning a walkout to oppose Louisiana House Bill 570, one of many anti-transgender bills circulating nationwide.

According to this bill:

No nurse, counselor, teacher, principal, or other official or staff at a public or private school shall… withhold from a minor’s parent or legal guardian information related to the minor’s perception that his gender is inconsistent with his sex…”

HB 570 and similar legislation are part of a recent wave of both anti-teacher and transphobic legislation. While these bills reflect a broader culture war, they have a real, material impact on our youth. These bills seek to make a teacher’s job more challenging in an already overburdened profession while putting the lives of transgender students in peril.

High school students from New Orleans take part in a rally March 25, 2022, against anti-transgender legislation the Louisiana Legislature has proposed. (Photo by Chris Dier)

Click here to continue reading at the Louisiana Illuminator.

My Students Still Have Questions About the Capitol Riot. They Deserve Honest Answers

Jan. 6, 2021, is a modern lesson plan for the history left out of textbooks

On Jan. 6, 2021, I was teaching a class when I received a news alert notifying me that Vice President Mike Pence was evacuated from the U.S. Capitol because of an attack on the building. As a history teacher, I recognized the severity of the situation, and I also knew that it was vital to address this troubling saga with my students as it unraveled.

Police explode flash-grenades as a mob storms the US Capitol. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

This was the most intense attack on the Capitol since the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. The classroom discussions that day were tough; students had many pressing questions while they witnessed in real time the storming of the Capitol. As my teacher colleagues and I revisit that anniversary, the conversations are as challenging as they were in 2021—and perhaps even more necessary today.

Continue Reading on EducationWeek

The Case For New Orleans: Why We Matter and Why We Should Exist

After multiple hurricanes, severe flooding, staggering death tolls, and expensive rebuilding price tags, the critiques that New Orleans shouldn’t exist, be rebuilt, or similar sentiment, consistently gain traction.

Continue reading “The Case For New Orleans: Why We Matter and Why We Should Exist”

Louisiana Bill Criminalizes Teaching Authentic History

Representative Ray Garofalo, the head of Louisiana’s House Education Committee, recently introduced House Bill 564 to address “training with respect to certain concepts related to race and sex in elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary education institutions.” The bill defines “training” as “the teaching and education of a student or employee by means of lecturing or textbooks, audiovisual materials, or any other kind of reference materials.” Much of HB 564 is plagiarized from Section 2 of Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13950, which was recently revoked.

Louisiana House of Representatives in session in Baton Rouge. Source

Continue reading on Medium.

What I’ll Say to My History Class If There’s No Clear Winner on Election Night

Waking up to teach the day after the presidential election of 2016 was one of the most surreal moments of my more than decade-long teaching career. The demographics of the high school where I was teaching four years ago were roughly 50 percent white and 50 percent Black, Indigenous, and students of color. That morning, some of the students were excited; others were visibly upset. And as they walked into class, I handed them a sheet of loose-leaf and asked them to jot down whatever thoughts they had about the election. There was no rubric.

A vintage illustration of ballot counting following the disputed 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. —Keith Lance/Getty

Students eagerly took pen to paper. I noticed one student write something brief and put her pencil down as other students continued to write. Her paper read, “I want to be in this country because I love it. I don’t know if this country wants me back now though.” I’ll never forget those words or the emotions on her face. I still have all of their writings from that day.

Continue Reading at Education Week.

What President Trump Gets Wrong About ‘Patriotic Education’

Throughout his presidency, Trump has accused teachers, especially history teachers, as “indoctrinating” students to “hate America.” I joined four other state teachers of the year,* who all teach history, to set the record straight about what transpires in our classrooms.

In a somber back-to-school season gripped by the pandemic, President Donald Trump late last month announced a commission to promote a “patriotic education.” He provides a bleak picture of our nation’s classrooms, a radical wasteland where “left wing” teachers indoctrinate children to “hate America.” And despite a growing movement of educators calling for a more culturally diverse curriculum that acknowledges the impact of slavery and systemic racism in our country, Trump decries this push toward truth as “a form of child abuse.”

We, five of our nation’s teachers of the year, are deeply troubled by this.

A “patriotic education,” as we see it, is one where we embrace and value all students’ worth and dignity while creating spaces for them to consider the realities of our country, past and present, to build a better tomorrow. As teachers, we know that in our classrooms, we can hold our national victories, struggles, accomplishments, and missteps close while promising to fight together for a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This is patriotism; this is American.

Continue reading at EducationWeek.

* Here are the coauthors of this piece:

  • Takeru “TK” Nagayoshi, the 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, teaches high school English and research in New Bedford.
  • Erin McCarthy, the 2020 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, teaches 8th grade social studies in Greendale.
  • Cecilia Chung, the 2020 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, teaches 6th grade English/language arts and social studies on Oahu.
  • Lynette Stant, a 3rd grade teacher from the Dine’ Nation, is the 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year. She teaches on the Salt River Indian Reservation in Scottsdale.

Our Students Deserve Spaces Not Named After White Supremacists

On June 5 of 2020, a few friends and I attended a Black Lives Matter rally right outside of Jackson Square, in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. We were fortunate to rendezvous with some of my former students. At the rally, protesters silently sat along the Mississippi River to reflect on the recent killings of Black Americans at the hands of police. After reflection, many of us returned to Jackson Square, named after Andrew Jackson, and joined the calls to remove the iconic Andrew Jackson statue overlooking the square.

Protesters gathered around Jackson Square, New Orleans, on June 5, 2020. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune — The Advocate. @DavidGrunfeld)

There we faced a small group of armed counterprotesters, around five or so, wearing bulletproof vests and ready to “defend” the statue. The protesters and counterprotesters angrily exchanged words, which seemed to eerily satisfy the counterprotesters. One of my former students, Leandre Shaw, decided to approach a counterprotester to engage in dialogue. During the conversation, the counterprotester told us he wanted to protect the statues and asked why we were so concerned with them. Aronisha Mickel, another former student, said she’s not just concerned with them; rather, she wants to create a better world for her future children to be safe. Her response caused him to pause.

Continue reading on Medium.

The Legend of Jean Saint Malo

June 19th was a day of remembrance in Louisiana, specifically in my home community of St. Bernard Parish, almost a century before Juneteenth. It was a day where people celebrated the life of Jean San Malo and what he came to symbolize – freedom and resistance. 

In the late eighteenth century in Spanish Louisiana, Jean San Malo and his group of maroons roamed the marshes surrounding New Orleans. The word “maroon” derives from the Spanish word cimarrón, which roughly translates to “fugitive” or “runaway.” San Malo was one of Louisiana’s fiercest and most notable maroons. Little is known about his upbringing. Prior to mutinying, he belonged to a Swiss-born colonial official with a plantation along the German Coast, a region along the Mississippi River above New Orleans. After Malo’s escape, he utilized his carpentry skills to produce furniture to accumulate weapons and gunpowder. His alarming success gained him loyal supporters throughout the maroon community. He established his main camp in Bas du Fleuve, located in modern-day St. Bernard Parish along the banks of Lake Borgne. Bas du Fleuve and surrounding regions were notorious for marronage. The majority of maroons from the area hailed from St. Bernard Parish, considering its geographical features and proximity to New Orleans paved the way for large plantations. 

Continue reading “The Legend of Jean Saint Malo”

Bella Ciao, Class of 2020

There are quite a few speeches and letters circulating around the internet for the Class of 2020, understandably so. However, this particular one by Lina Abdellatif, a Chalmette High student, hits home and is more important than ever. Lina was one of the Valedictorians at Chalmette High, named Student of the Year, and a Posse scholarship recipient to the Notre Dame.

Lina dedicated her valedictorian speech by calling students to a greater meaning beyond themselves. She did this through one of my favorite historical songs – “Bella Ciao” – an anti-fascist Italian anthem. Coming from Italian immigrants and a legacy of family fighting Nazis during WWII, it struck a cord with me.

Unfortunately, Lina’s message only reached a small audience due to the pandemic. I wanted it to reach a wider audience because she deserves it, and we need to hear it. She granted me permission to post this moving and inspirational ballad.

Below is her address, unedited, for the Class of 2020.

Continue reading “Bella Ciao, Class of 2020”


投稿日2020年3月16日 クリス・ダイアー


金曜日午後、学校終了のベルが鳴り終わった後、高校3年生数人が、私の教室に入ってきました。みんな、プロムパーティー(アメリカの高校の社交行事のダンスパーティ)や卒業旅行のことを心配していました。生徒の話を聞いているうちに、教師として胸が張り裂けそうになりました。今、これから卒業を迎えようとしている君たちも、これを読んできっと同じように心配していることでしょう。Continue reading “高校を卒業する君たちへの公開書簡”

Una carta abierta a los estudiantes de último año de secundaria

Estimados Seniors de Escuela Secundaria:

El viernes por la tarde, algunos estudiantes de último año entraron a mi clase después de que sonó la última campana. Estaban molestos porque su viaje de senior a Disneyworld probablemente será cancelado. Me rompió el corazón de maestro al escuchar.

Porque esto es difícil. Se supone que este debería ser el año de ustedes. El año para tu fiesta de graduación, eventos deportivos, competencias de ánimo, viajes de seniors, clubes, y el resto de lo que el último año escolar tiene para ofrecer. Se supone que tú deberías ser el capitán de ese tal equipo, el oficial de ese tal club, o ese estudiante que quería estar con sus amigos por última vez antes de aventurarse en lo desconocido. Este era EL año en que toda tu educación se estaba acumulando. Pero te lo robaron debido a esta pandemia global.Continue reading “Una carta abierta a los estudiantes de último año de secundaria”

An Open Letter to High School Seniors

Dear High School Senior,

On Friday afternoon a few seniors came into my classroom after the last bell rang. They were concerned about prom and their senior trip. It broke my teacher heart to listen. As you’re reading this, you most likely have similar concerns.

This is supposed to be your year. The year for your senior prom, sporting events, cheer competitions, senior trips, clubs, and the rest of what senior year has to offer. You were supposed to be the captain of that team, the officer of that club, or that student who wanted to be with their friends one last year before venturing into the unknown. This was THE year that your entire schooling was building up to. But it was robbed from you because of this global pandemic. 

Let’s be abundantly clear – you were robbed, and it’s unfair. If you’re upset, then you should embrace those feelings. Commiserate with one another. Some folks will downplay the situation because they won’t know what it feels like to have their senior year stripped at the last moment. Continue reading “An Open Letter to High School Seniors”

Upcoming Lectures!

Greetings!  I am honored to have been invited to give lectures to discuss my research on the St. Bernard Parish Massacre of 1868 as the 150th anniversary approaches. They are all free and open to the public.

1. Thursday, September 13, 6pm
The New Orleans Jazz Museum At The Old U.S. Mint
400 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116
Click here for more infoOld-US-Mint-01

2. Monday, October 15, 7pm (come early for complimentary wine and cheese)
Nunez Community College
3710 Paris Rd, Chalmette, LA 70043
Click here for more info

3. Wednesday, November 14th, 6pm
Hermann-Grima House
3416, 820 St. Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Click here for more info

Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for more information regarding the commemoration of the event.

Upcoming Book Signings!

The positive response to my book, The 1868 St. Bernard Parish Massacre: Blood in the Cane Fields, from the local community has been unreal and humbling! There is a clear demand for this era in history. For those still interested in buying a copy and/or getting it signed, here are some upcoming book signings:

  • Saturday, November 4: The 1850 House Museum Store, 11am – 1pm
  • Sunday, November 5: The Coffee House, Arabi, 2pm – 6pm
  • Saturday, December 2: Barnes & Noble, Metairie, 3:30pm – 5:30pm
  • Thursday, December 7, Cafe Aquarius, Chalmette, (tentative; tbd)
  • Saturday, December 9: Fair Grinds Coffee House located at 2221 St. Claude, New Orleans, 12pm – tbd


Here is the Facebook event link for upcoming Coffee House signing this Sunday in Arabi.

If you’re unable to attend yet still interested, there are copies available online at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

If you have any questions or would like to host a book signing, please email me at chrisdier3@gmail.com.

Again, thanks to all for the support!

Upcoming Book Available!

Hello all!  As you may or may not have noticed, I have been on hiatus from this blog for almost two years.  This is for a few reasons.  First, I decided to go back to graduate school, which is undauntedly time consuming as I teach high school.  However, the main reason is that I have a book deal from the History Press regarding the 1868 St. Bernard Parish Massacre, which was one of the topics of my earliest blogs (don’t judge my writing from that long ago, please).

Well, the book is complete and now available for pre-order via Amazon.  It will be officially published on October 16, 2017.  Please feel free to get a copy if you’re interested in Black history, Louisiana history, and/or Reconstruction.  If not, this book may still appeal to you!  I put a lot of time, dedication, and primary research into it.

Book Cover

More details to come for a book release party for those in the New Orleans area!

And hopefully I’m back to delivering content.  Feel free to leave comments on where you think I should focus on for my first post back!

100 Iconic Photos of New Orleans Through the Ages

I’ve compiled a listicle of my favorite historical photos of New Orleans.  Through its complex history, New Orleans experienced a series of issues: slavery, war, riots, segregation, hurricanes, etc.  I stopped prior to 1980 to keep it as historical as possible.  I kept it at 100 to keep it succinct, but there are many more that should belong here so feel free to add any of your favorite photos in the comments section.

Continue reading “100 Iconic Photos of New Orleans Through the Ages”

The History Surrounding New Orleans’ Confederate Memorials

On September 14, 1874, over 5,000 heavily armed members of the White League, a white supremacist paramilitary organization, mobilized to overthrow the Reconstruction government of Louisiana.  Under the guidance of John McEnery, a Democrat upset at his recent loss for governorship, they stormed Canal Street to initiate the coup.  There they clashed with the Metropolitan Police, a majority African-American force, and the state militia, comprised of ex-Confederates and Union soldiers, Irish and Italian immigrants, and African-Americans.  The total force of those defending the city was an estimated 3,500.  They were outmanned and outgunned.

Continue reading “The History Surrounding New Orleans’ Confederate Memorials”

The Historic Music of Angola Penitentiary

In 1933, famed ethnomusicologist John Lomax and his son Alan Lomax pioneered on an arduous journey to capture the sounds of the American South.  They wanted to find African-American folk songs in its purest form as close to the days of slavery as possible.  Lomax believed prisons provided the best source as its walls created a filter to the perversions of popular music.

Continue reading “The Historic Music of Angola Penitentiary”

The Upstairs Lounge Fire: The Largest Massacre of Gay People in U.S. History

On a Sunday afternoon on June 24, 1973, around sixty patrons were drinking at the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter.  At 7:56pm, the buzzer that signaled a cab sounded.  The man that opened the steel door was greeted by a hurling Molotov cocktail that quickly engulfed the staircase and spread in seconds.  Thirty-two men were brutally murdered; most burned alive.  It is the largest known massacre of gay people in our nation’s history.

Continue reading “The Upstairs Lounge Fire: The Largest Massacre of Gay People in U.S. History”

South Louisiana: The Almost Hippopotamus Capital of the West

As the United States entered the 20th century, increasing population and industrialization led to a nationwide meat shortage.  Moving west to acquire more land for grazing or hunting became a limited option as the frontier closed and buffalos were hunted into near extinction.  In southern Louisiana, newly invasive water hyacinths, similar to water lilies, transported to New Orleans by Japanese tourists during the 1884 World’s Fair were creating massive ecological dilemmas.  In 1910, an audacious plan was put forth to address both concerns: import hippopotamuses from Africa to the bayous of Louisiana to consume the water hyacinths and provide a tasty source of meat for a hungry nation.

Continue reading “South Louisiana: The Almost Hippopotamus Capital of the West”

The Infamous Bombing of St. Louis Cathedral

New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral faced a myriad of obstacles through its circa 300 years of existence.  It was first built in 1718, the same year the city was founded under French explorer and colonizer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.  The Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 scorched the original structure, and a new structure was completed in 1794.  Enlargement and reconstruction in 1850 eradicated much of the original edifice, giving the city its current building.  In 1909, the Cathedral faced an uncharacteristic obstacle: nitroglycerin.

Continue reading “The Infamous Bombing of St. Louis Cathedral”

The Lost Chinatown of New Orleans

New Orleans’ once bustling Chinatown was one of the largest in the country, behind San Francisco and New York City. Due to numerous obstacles, ranging from stringent immigration policies to excessive demolition, Chinatown eventually faded from both modern maps and, for most residents, our collective memory. Tangible vestiges of this once active community are slim, yet its lore continues in New Orleans’ dynamic history.

Continue reading “The Lost Chinatown of New Orleans”