Dr. Lance Hill

“Every nation has the potential to commit genocide; and every human, despite their frailties, is capable of summoning the courage to defend human dignity.”
                - Lance Hill

Dr. Lance Hill is a co-founder of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University. He served as Executive Director between 1993 and 2015.

Deacons for Defense

Dr. Hill holds a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University, where he has taught U. S. History and Intercultural Communications. His research concerns the history of race relations, the radical right, and ethnic group trauma. He has written extensively on anti-Semitism, the contemporary Nazi movement, and the history of civil rights. He is the author of The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and The Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Hill was born in Belleville, Kansas, the fourth of seven children. His father was a maintenance mechanic in a chemical plant and a labor organizer, and his mother was a nurse. It was said that Lance got his determination from his father and his compassion from his mother. He grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, home of Kansas University, and his activism began early. He organized a strike by bus boys at the university cafeteria when he was in eighth grade. When a senior in high school, he invited a black friend to the white-only swimming pool. This was an early encounter with racism that drew a sharp rebuke from his father. Dr. Hill attended Kansas University but was expelled after leading anti-war demonstrations. He earned a B.A. from the University of the State of New York, and embarked on a fifteen year career in labor organizing. With labor-organizing and anti-Klan activities in mind, Dr. Hill and his wife Eileen San Juan moved to Hammond, Louisiana, with their two children in 1979. He worked as a welder in a shipyard where he encountered deeply entrenched racism. He attended Tulane University on a scholarship and earned a Ph.D. in history while working as an archivist at the Amistad Research Center and leading anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid demonstrations. “He was intellectually self-made,” remarked his advisor Dr. Lawrence N. Powell.

Lance Hill in front of office

Between 1989 and 1992 Dr. Hill served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, the grass roots organization that led the opposition to former Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke’s Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns in early 1990s. This inter-faith and inter-racial coalition, with 17,000 members across Louisiana, was founded by a number of people, including Dr. Hill, Dr. Lawrence Powell, Saul Mintz, Fletcher Thorn-Thompson, Reverend James L. Stovall, Elizabeth Rickey, Emmet Bashful of Southern University, and Jane Buchsbaum of the Jewish Federation. Dr. Powell served as co-chairman. Dr. Hill directed the coalition’s research program and extensive media campaigns. The Times-Picayune credited the Coalition with having “much of the responsibility” for Duke’s defeat in his U. S. Senate bid, and The New York Times asserted that the Coalition had unmasked Duke’s mendacity.

Duke was defeated in both elections but won a majority of the white vote in each. There was obviously more work to be done.

In 1993, Dr. Hill was 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 education. His vision and energy guided the Southern Institute for twenty-two years.

Due to health reasons, Dr. Hill retired in 2015. We miss him.