Friday, September 16, 2005

The Great Flood of 1927

WIKIPEDIA - The Great Mississippi Flood in 1927 was the most destructive river flood in United States history. In the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 the Mississippi River broke out of its levee system in 145 places and flooded 27,000 square miles or about 16,570,627 acres. The area was inundated up to a depth of 30 feet. The flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states. . .

The flood propelled Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, in charge of flood relief operations, into the national spotlight and set the stage for his election to the Presidency. It also helped Huey Long be elected Louisiana Governor in 1928. . .

By August 1927 the flood subsided. During the disaster 700,000 people were displaced, including 330,000 African-Americans who were moved to 154 relief camps. Over 13,000 refugees near Greenville, Mississippi were gathered from area farms and evacuated to the crest of an unbroken levee, and stranded there for days without food or clean water, while boats arrived to evacuate white women and children. Many African-Americans were detained and forced to labor at gunpoint during flood relief efforts.

Several reports on the poor situation in the refugee camps, including one by the Colored Advisory Commission by Robert Russa Moton, were kept out of the media at the request of Herbert Hoover, with the promise of further reforms for blacks after the presidential election. When he failed to keep the promise, Moton and other influential African-Americans helped to shift the allegiance of black Americans from the Republican party to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats.

The aftermath of the flood was one factor in the Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities. The flood 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 McCoy and Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks" was reworked by Led Zeppelin, and became one of that group's most famous songs.

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