Katrina, like the Louisiana flood of 1927, returns the poor of inner city to forefrontBreaking News
The oversight was perhaps more understandable given that society as a whole seemed to have tabled its debate over poor, largely black, inner-city neighborhoods somewhere around two decades ago.
The notion that a disaster offers a mirror to the country, forcing a bitter reconsideration of its own condition, should not be a surprise. It happened in the United States with the 1927 Louisiana flood, a catastrophe that shook American politics in its time.
Back in the Jazz Age, the America of Wall Street wealth and scientific advances paid little heed to the still-primitive conditions of the rural poor. While the lights of Times Square dazzled the world, most of the South still lacked electricity; while Charles Lindbergh stretched the bounds of what was humanly possible by flying nonstop across the Atlantic, families in the Mississippi Delta lacked even flat boats to carry them to safety in a flood.
Back then, it didn't take a hurricane to break the levees along the Mississippi. Heavy rains in the summer of 1926 left the river and many of its tributaries dangerously overswollen, and by the winter of 1926-1927 areas within 60 miles of the Mississippi basin began to fill up with water. Six states were affected, with Louisiana among the worst hit, even though the destruction of levees north of New Orleans spared the city at the expense of rural areas.
The death toll was 246, but 700,000 people -- half of them black -- were displaced. Then, as now, haunting pictures and descriptions of the devastation shocked the country. Many blacks were herded into unsanitary evacuation camps.
Amid rising public anger, Herbert Hoover -- then the secretary of commerce -- swept in to oversee relief efforts. Hoover won high marks for his take-charge attitude, though many scholars believe that black resentment over the way the Republican administration handled relief efforts caused the historic shift in black allegience from the Republican to Democratic Party.
The need for federal action challenged President Calvin Coolidge's belief in small government. Coolidge's lack of comprehension of the scope of the disaster was ridiculed in songs, and some historians now regard it as a symbol of Jazz Age indifference, a preview of the social disarray that would mark the Depression years.
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Transcribed Document: Soviet Politburo Discussed CIA Billion Dollar Spy Adolf Tolkachev
- Pentagon withholds Iraq War photos showing detainee abuse
- These Rebels Have Amassed A Library From Syria’s Ruins
- Was 1916 fire at Canadian Parliament set by German saboteur?
- United Nations Calls On U.S. To Pay African Americans Reparations For Slavery
- Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest Destiny
- History Jobs Drop
- Paul Krugman gives credence to Robert J. Gordon's pessimism about American economic growth
- Harvard President Drew Faust Condemns Free Tuition Proposal from Outsider Overseers Ticket
- Andrew Roberts says Trump is the Mussolini of America with double the vulgarity