Friday, October 26, 2007

The More Things Change ...

An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society, and the Mississippi River, Rising Tide tells the riveting and nearly forgotten story of the greatest natural disaster this country has ever known -- the Mississippi flood of 1927. The river inundated the homes of nearly one million people, helped elect Huey Long governor and made Herbert Hoover president, drove hundreds of thousands of blacks north, and transformed American society and politics forever.

In 1927, the business elite decided to dynamite the levee protecting St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes so that those parishes would get flooded and save New Orleans. It is interesting to note that they did not want to dynamite the area north of New Orleans because that area is more developed and would have cost more to rebuild and to compensate the victims. Moreover, city officials decided to dynamite the east bank rather than the west bank of the city because the west was more important to the business interests. Although it has not been officially indicated that levees were dynamited in New Orleans to save the city from further flooding during Katrina, witnesses near the levees protecting the eastern part of the city have said they believe the levees were dynamited to safeguard the Central Business District of New Orleans, by causing more flooding in the Ninth Ward. Such disregard for the welfare of the masses ignited dissent among the people that had to be controlled by the dominators.

In order to subdue the people, the ruling elite used force in both disasters. In fact, even in 1927, guards were given “shoot to kill orders” and rumors abounded about blacks “looting” and such black “looters” were shot by the National Guard and police officers in order to send a message to others. White people took advantage of the looting rumor by establishing an 8 p.m. curfew in Greenville, MS that was enforced only on blacks. Barry characterized the struggle against the flood as one that became a battle of “man against man” or the elite against the people.

The Great Flood of 1927 "resulted in a great cultural output as well, inspiring a great deal of folklore and folk music. Charlie Patton, Bessie Smith and many other Delta blues musicians wrote numerous songs about the flood; Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" was also based on the events of the flood.

Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie

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