Blogger, Youtuber, academic joins History department


BP Photo by Ezra Fax

MEDIA: Dr. Keith Harris, a published author and Civil War expert, has over 31,000 views on his Youtube channel.

By Hannah Jannol, Community Editor

If Dr. Keith Harris is not teaching Civil War history in a classroom, he is talking about it on his blog, Youtube channel, or research novel, Across the Bloody Chasm.

Dr. Harris, who is teaching World History to 9th graders, one US history class to sophomores, and an SAS Civil War & Reconstruction course to upperclassmen, began his academic media presence in 2010. Since then, his Youtube channel has accumulated over 31,000 views and 120 subscribers.

Additionally, he runs successful media platforms on both Twitter (@MKeithHarris) and Instagram (@keithharrishistory), which have over 8,000 followers combined.

“All of my social media presence is geared to reach out to the broader public,” Dr. Harris said. “I’ve written academic books and essays but…I’d much rather have a broader audience.”

“I probably reach more people with a single tweet than I do with all my academic works combined.”

On his Youtube channel, he has a video series on his channel, titled “Office Hours,” in which he briefly explains topics in the AP U.S. History curriculum.  On his website, called, he writes succinct blog entries on a multitude of topics ranging from contemporary politics to the battle of Gettysburg.

“Have ‘all’ people been criminalized for their manner of dress?” Dr. Harris wrote in a July 9 post titled “The Absurdity of #AllLivesMatter.”   “Have ‘all’ people had to instruct their children that they will be treated as potential threats and thus take especial care not to be killed? No.”

Dr. Harris is tapped into both the intellectual microcosm of academia and wider world of history interest, and so his teaching style combines both.  His SAS Civil War curriculum will use old literature on the Civil War, such as the memoir Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins, and mainstream films like Gone with the Wind.

In his SAS Civil War class – a new course offered this year — Dr. Harris is replacing a textbook with primary documents like Robert E. Lee’s “General Order No. 9” to his soldiers of Northern Virginia, and trading in lectures for class-wide discussions.

“I am demanding on my students, I expect them to learn things and produce things, and I think that my teaching style lends itself to that — so I’m a sort of task-master,” Dr. Harris said.

“But I’m fair. I look for the way people think and the way they come to their conclusions rather than just road repetition of names and dates, I don’t really care about that kind of stuff.”
Junior Ariel Cohen was at Dr. Harris’s demonstration lesson last spring, where he used the 1861 “Cornerstone Speech” by Alexander Stephens, then vice president of the Confederate States of America in 1861. In his speech, Stephens argued that African Americans are unequal to white people.

“I loved the creativity of the lesson with primary sources and his passion for the topic, specifically the Civil War,” she said.

Dr. Harris is looking forward to learning Jewish History in depth with Mr. Jeremy Shine, now that the freshman World History and Jewish History courses have been merged. This year, Jewish History and World History each meet twice a week during the same period block, as opposed to three times a week each in different periods. Mr. Shine and Dr. Harris are working together to align the two curricula.

Still, Mr. Harris considers himself “an Americanist by profession.” He has a Masters in American History and a PhD in Civil War History and 19th-century America, both from the University of Virginia. There, he began his career in education by instructing discussion sections. For the past three years, he has been teaching privately but before that taught briefly at UC Riverside.

Dr. Harris has visible tattoos and seems to collect them as well as cats, saying he has “well over five” of both. On his right knuckles, he has his wife’s name, Coni, tattooed, one letter on each finger – and said he is planning on tattooing an image of Ulysses S. Grant on his right forearm.