Lawrence N. Powell, Ph. D., is acting Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1976, having studied the American Civil War and Reconstruction under C. Vann Woodward.
Dr. Powell began teaching American history at Tulane University in 1978. He was honored for Teaching Excellence on several occasions and as Professor of the Year in 1985. The Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities chose Dr. Powell as Louisiana Humanist of the Year in 1999. He retired in June 2012 and holds the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization.
Dr. Powell is not only a scholar but an activist. He has taken the lessons of history from the pages of his books and applied them to the on-going struggle for equality and human dignity. In 1989, he was one of the founders (and vice-chairman) of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism. This grass roots organization led the opposition to the U. S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns of neo-Nazi and former Klansman David Duke. It was at this time that Dr. Powell joined forces with his former student Lance Hill.
In 1993, the two men were among the founders of The Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University, a race and ethnic relations center dedicated to promoting tolerance through teacher education.
Dr. Powell is the author of several books. Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana recounts the experiences of Anne Levy and her family during the Holocaust. With her sister Lila, Anne survived as a “hidden child” in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. In her adopted Louisiana four decades later she pursued and confronted Holocaust-denier and state legislator David Duke. Dr. Powell retrieved the history of Anne’s family before it was lost forever. S. J. Whitfield reviewed Troubled Memory in American Jewish History: “By telling the extraordinary story of an ordinary Jew named Anne Skorecki Levy, and of her intrepid parents and of other relatives, the author has not only traced the traumatic genesis of her 1989 challenge to the candidacy of David Duke, Powell has preserved the names and struggles of the doomed. He has thus extracted a sliver of meaning from the catastrophe that befell European Jewry.”
Under the auspices of The Southern Institute, Anne Levy and her sister Lila Millen have participated for many years in teacher education workshops and presentations in New Orleans and across the Deep South.
Dr. Powell’s most recent book is The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington-Post opined that Powell “has written in the Accidental City what should stand for years as the definitive history of New Orleans’ first century, the period that he regards as central to the city’s formation and its character.” Yardley added, “The coming into being of New Orleans is a dramatic story but not a very pretty one.”