Author: Teresa

The Flood of 1927

The Flood of 1927

From Nashville to Tupelo on the Natchez Trace Parkway. A trip to Nashville for a wedding. A road trip to Tupelo in Mississippi. And a visit to an inner-city, rural church in rural, Mississippi.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

I’ve posted before about the 1927 Great Mississippi River Flood. It was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, responsible for roughly $1 billion in damages, and taking the lives of more than 2,200 people (including 1,000 who drowned).

And a little more than 100 years later it’s still coming back to haunt America…

The Mississippi River has been dammed several times in the last couple of decades. There’s been an artificial reservoir (the New Orleans Ship Channel), another (the Lake Pontchartrain) and one of the most bizarre ones, the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Now, the flood of 1927 was caused by a failure of the levees in Lake Pontchartrain.

But what was it known as, before the advent of social media?

Yes, it is time to go back…

The history of the flood is long and complex, but it’s worth an aside, because the flood is really about class and power in America. It’s the story of black Mississippians and their push to get ahead, to get their own piece of the country and make their mark on the world.

Here’s the short version of the story:

In 1927 Mississippi was hit with a super-storm. The Mississippi Flood of 1927 killed hundreds of people, almost all black, and destroyed entire communities. The flood was also something of a watershed for racial politics in America, with the city of Memphis being the first major city to name and shame white merchants who continued to do business in black neighborhoods after the 1927 flood.

But the story starts earlier, with the levee failures and other factors that led to the 1927 flood. And, before that, there’s the story of the Mississippi Valley South, the story of the slave trade that took thousands of people from Africa to America and how that’s been forgotten by historians and by many other non-blacks.

The story of the flood is also a tale of how white, Christian America has always responded with class and power when it’s faced with “nigger” behavior. It’s a story of a flood that began as a civil rights issue, just as

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