Correction: A previous version of this article printed the incorrect name for AMP—it is named American Millennium Project, not American Millennial Project. 225 regrets the error.
Googly-eyed in France, a young LSU grad embarked on one of his first travel experiences. As Chris Chandler walked the streets of Paris, he had many questions for the locals. But the residents, it turned out, were just as curious about Louisiana culture. Despite living in The Boot his entire life, he didn’t have all the answers.
The more he traveled, the more Chandler realized how little is taught in schools about regional history. In 2000, he founded The American Millennium Project (AMP) nonprofit as a way to teach his neighbors the history and culture of his native Shreveport. Today, AMP has grown to offer tours statewide.
“We want people in Louisiana to have roots,” Chandler says. “We want them to travel and see the world, but we want them to be connected (to home).”
Residents, neighbors and visitors are welcomed to take a two- or three-hour tour via AMP to learn history through storytelling and sightseeing in seven regions of Louisiana, including the Capital Region. Attendees travel by bus to seven landmarks in each area to showcase its “wonders.”
The tours highlight significant heritage sites, kept a surprise until the trip is underway.
AMP’s River Road tour explores Louisiana and African American history through visits to plantations like Houmas House and Laura Plantation.
“There’s all these debates that we’re having over racial history and how we’re teaching history—all of that comes into AMP,” Chandler says. “If you only go to one (plantation), you’re going to get one version of history. If you go to both, you’re going to get a good question to ask yourself: Who writes the history?”
AMP’s Seven Wonders of St. Francisville showcases the village’s history through its people. Each site’s significance is explained through residents’ stories.Visitors make their way to the town’s famous Cedar-Oak, and a member of the West Feliciana Historical Society enchants guests with the tree’s biography.
Just an hour outside Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee Parish is steadily growing. Its own Seven Wonders tour centers around its crescent lake, False River. One of the stops explores how archaeologists are finding artifacts in the Livonia Mound, leading them to question whether it was a burial or ceremonial ground.
AMP works with historians, and educators.
“When we put together our tours, it’s not Chris Chandler coming into a new city saying ‘Hey, I’m going to teach y’all about yourselves,’” Chandler says. “It’s me coming into the community saying ‘Who are your greatest historians alive today? Let’s work together to build our tour.’”
By next year, AMP will expand to Texas. And it’s growing beyond tours, too. The AMP Ideas Festival, a monthly meeting where locals zero in on community problems and solutions, has been hosted in Shreveport for years. It will launch in AMP’s other six regions by next year. Meanwhile, its AMP educational clubs will be active in all Louisiana school districts by this fall.
Because, Chandler says, the stories he hears from local historians often go beyond what’s in textbooks.
“We really need to open our minds a little bit,” Chandler says, “(to the stories untold) in our Louisiana history books.”
Tour the state
American Millennium Project hosts groups of 12-25 people on its local history and storytelling tours. Visit amp2000.org to explore its regional and themed offerings. Tours are $50 a person and can be booked a week in advance by contacting owner Chris Chandler at 225-441-0845 or [email protected].
This article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of 225 magazine.