Dan Alba

Dan Alba joined the Facing History and Ourselves staff in 1994. He currently serves as a Senior Program Associate.

Recent Posts

You don't have to wait! 10 Facing History & Ourselves Resources For Early American History

Posted by Dan Alba on September 23, 2015

There was a time when American History teachers had to just "hold tight" until their course chronology met up with available Facing History resources on the Eugenics movement (late 1800s/early 1900s), and 20th century issues around immigration, education, and "race."

Read More

Topics: Reconstruction, Teaching, Los Angeles, Race and Membership in American History: Eugenics

3 Ways to Make Your Classroom Contract More Effective

Posted by Dan Alba on August 18, 2015

We've all heard the adage "first impressions are the most lasting." As your students return from summer vacation, what first impressions will they have on their first day in your classroom? What lasting impressions will "set the tone" for the remainder of the semester or school year?

Read More

Topics: Safe Schools, Teaching Strategy

Break the Ice: Activity 2 of 4 Favorites for Building Community

Posted by Dan Alba on August 7, 2015

Building on our webinar for creating a safe, reflective classroom community, this week each LA Program staff member of Facing History and Ourselves will share their favorite community-building activity. Here is post #2 of 4.

To Look At Me You Wouldn't Know...."

I absolutely love this simple yet powerful strategy to help build classroom community by breaking down students' assumptions and stereotypes about others.

Read More

Topics: Safe Schools, Teaching Strategy, Breaking the Ice

6 Questions from Courtroom Drama

Posted by Dan Alba on June 5, 2015

This is the final installment in a five-part series on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

As I approached the last chapters of this book many questions emerged, particularly during the courtroom drama which unfolds in Chapter 9, "Unveiling The Mystery."

  • What message would be sent if the defendant is found guilty or not guilty?
  • Who would claim victory?
  • How would politics and the media, during this era of Reconstruction, use the verdict to influence public opinion?
  • How would the verdict reverberate throughout New Orleans or for that matter, the rest of the nation?
  • What would happen should this case fall apart altogether?
  • And finally, how would the verdict be attributed to race?
Read More

Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

The World Upside Down

Posted by Dan Alba on May 22, 2015

The politics of reconstruction had turned the world upside down."

This is part four in a five-part series on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

Chapters 5 to 7 of The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case reveal that who you were - your color, position, gender, political affiliation, personal history, and where you were from - mattered. These attributes became the basis for how society judged an individual's motives or trustworthiness. One's credibility and reputation rested on these factors more than the substance of what you said or did.

Suspects Ellen Follin, a Creole, and her sister, Louisa Murray, are arrested for the kidnapping of Molly Digby. As a Creole, Ellen had greater status than former slaves in New Orleans society. She owned a Lying-In Hospital, which was what one newspaper referred to as a “house of secret obstetrics,” a questionable profession even then.

Read More

Topics: The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

Missed Opportunities

Posted by Dan Alba on April 24, 2015

This is part two in a five-part virtual book club on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

For this week, we read Chapter One: “A Kidnapping in the Back of Town.” Chapter one sets the stage for introducing one of our country's most sensationalized kidnapping mysteries in history. Through the lives of ordinary Americans from every segment of society in 1870 New Orleans, we see the entire social order of society turned upside down at the height of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

With the kidnapping of Molly Digby, the 17-month-old baby from Irish working class parents, a cast of citizens navigate their identities, roles and responsibilities in a city torn apart by politics, racial fear, rumors, hysteria and religious accusations of Voodoo sacrifices. This includes:

  • Louisiana's Governor, Henry Clay Warmoth,
  • a Union army veteran from Illinois,
  • suspect Ellen Follin, described in the press as a "fashionable tall, mulatto woman, probably for the purpose of receiving a ransom,"
  • police chief Algernon Sidney Badger, originally from Massachusetts, and
  • African American detective John Baptise Jourdain, assigned to the Digby case.
Read More

Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, Justice in the Reconstruction Era

Posted by Dan Alba on April 10, 2015

Although his book reads like a classic "who done it?" detective story from the pages of Sherlock Holmes, Michael A. Ross, author of The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race and Justice in the Reconstruction Era offers deep insights into the hearts and minds of Southern society in the aftermath of the American Civil War. In honor of the release of Facing History and Ourselves' newest case study The Reconstruction Era: The Fragility of Democracy, we're doing a virtual book club on the blog!

Read More

Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

Interdisciplinary Planning: Connected Content

Posted by Dan Alba on April 30, 2014

We all know our experience in the world is not detached or separated into departments or subject matters. In fact, depending where we are and what we are doing, we often see the connections and intersections between historical knowledge, human behavior, psychology, literature, science, math and technology. This realization often brings into question why many of our schools are designed and structured around separate departments with separate curriculum where teachers meet within their disciplines to discuss or plan subject matter lessons.

Read More

Topics: Critical Thinking, Teaching Strategy

The Power of Presidential Statements

Posted by Dan Alba on February 13, 2013

Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Last night, as with Presidents since George Washington, President Obama delivered his third State of the Union Address. Over the years, Presidential statements have increased influence and profound impact on both the direction of our country as well as personal expressed values and beliefs which strengthen us as a democracy and a people.

Read More

Topics: Religion

Holocaust and Human Behavior: Lessons Learned & Shared

Posted by Dan Alba on December 21, 2012

After each school year, do you look forward to summer vacations, travels, hobbies and relaxation to recharge your batteries? As a former classroom teacher, I remember my own need to "get away from it all" and as "far as possible." But not Malia Frutschy from Beverly Hills High School! Malia confesses:

Read More

Topics: Choosing to Participate, Holocaust and Human Behavior

Welcome to Learn+Teach+Share

This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

Learn More:  

Subscribe to Email Updates