Building Power, Breaking Power

The United Teachers of New Orleans, 1965-2008

By Jesse Chanin

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, 4 graphs, 8 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7822-1
    Published: April 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7821-4
    Published: April 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7823-8
    Published: April 2024

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From 1965 to 2005, the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) defied the South's conservative anti-union efforts to become the largest local in Louisiana. Jesse Chanin argues that UTNO accomplished and maintained its strength through strong community support, addressing a Black middle-class political agenda, internal democracy, and drawing on the legacy and tactics of the civil rights movement by combining struggles for racial and economic justice, all under Black leadership and with a majority women and Black membership. However, the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina provided the state government and local charter school advocates with the opportunity to remake the school system and dismantle the union. Authorities fired 7,500 educators, marking the largest dismissal of Black teaching staff since Brown v. Board of Education.

Chanin highlights the significant staying power and political, social, and community impact of UTNO, as well as the damaging effects of the charter school movement on educators.

About the Author

Jesse Chanin is a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University's Coalition for Compassionate Schools, where she facilitates youth participatory action research.
For more information about Jesse Chanin, visit the Author Page.


"Meticulously researched, this book places Black teachers and their fight for equality at the forefront of a political narrative that has long marginalized them. Moreover, it offers crucial insights into the ongoing debates surrounding public education, teachers' unions, civil rights, and neoliberal reform, making it an essential read for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of these interconnected issues."—William P. Jones, University of Minnesota

"A riveting history and insightful analysis, this work exposes the racism and conservative school reform tactics that were used to dismantle a formidable economic, political, and socially impactful Black-led teachers' union following a natural disaster. This work is poised to make a compelling and substantive argument to critical education reform debates."—Rebecca Kolins Givan, Rutgers University