Plater Robinson is Education Director at the Southern Institute for Education and Research. He was born in New Orleans and graduated cum laude from Washington and Lee University in 1978. After teaching European history for three years at Saint James School in Maryland, he lived for a year in Seville, Spain, where he taught European history at Columbus College. He then obtained a Master’s Degree in European history at Louisiana State University, writing his thesis on Hitler’s role in the Spanish Civil War.
In 1987, Mr. Robinson embarked on an eight year journey as a free-lance journalist in public radio. He lived in Madrid, Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, and West Berlin, and produced stories on the 50th anniversaries of the major events before and during the Second World War and the Holocaust. He travelled to places scarred by that time and interviewed bystanders, villains, and rescuers. He also covered the fall of communism in 1989-’90. Mr. Robinson’s stories aired on National Public Radio, Christian-Science Monitor Radio, and Pacifica Network News. Among his 50th anniversary stories:
Mr. Robinson began covering politics in the Deep South in 1990. He won several awards for his coverage of the rise of neo-Nazi and Klansman David Duke in Louisiana politics: National Head-Liner, National Community Broadcaster, and New Orleans Press Club. In 1993, he won the New Orleans Press Club award for a documentary on the history and struggle for federal recognition of the Houma Indians of Louisiana. In 1995, after interviewing people in the Mississippi Delta for several years, Mr. Robinson produced a documentary on the 40th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till. The story, which included a chilling encounter with one of the killers, aired on the public radio documentary series Sound Print.
Since 1994 Mr. Robinson has served as Education Director at the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University. He travels across the Deep South conducting workshops for middle and high school teachers on the history of World War II and the Holocaust and – separately – on the history of race and civil rights in the Deep South. These workshops are based on the experiences of the people that Mr. Robinson has interviewed (and photographed) in Europe and in the Deep South.
Mixing images and recorded voices, he relates the stories of ordinary individuals who lived through extraordinary times. “Mr. Robinson’s presentation is like a perfectly orchestrated symphony,” commented one teacher. “The lights went down and he seemed to enter and become the stories he shared,” remarked another.
Mr. Robinson directs the annual Goldring Teacher Fellowship Program, a week-long summer workshop for teachers that focuses on the lives of ten survivors who lived in New Orleans after the war.
In 2003, he produced the documentary series “Ten Stories of Holocaust Survivors in New Orleans.” The Southern Institute has established a network of motivated teachers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. We call them “couriers of memory.”
In 2009, Mr. Robinson was honored as “Teacher of the Year” by the Jewish Community Center in New Orleans. Two years later he was featured on CBS Sixty Minutes in a story about his seventeen year pursuit of justice in the case of Louis Allen, a logger and civil rights activist who was gunned down at Liberty, Mississippi, in 1964. That story, which can be found on YouTube, is titled, “The Murder of Louis Allen.”