working list – by no means complete.
From the publisher:
The Mississippi River flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, reshaping the social and cultural landscape as well as the physical environment. Often remembered as an event that altered flood control policy and elevated the stature of powerful politicians, Richard M. Mizelle Jr. examines the place of the flood within African American cultural memory and the profound ways it influenced migration patterns in the United States.
In Backwater Blues, Mizelle analyzes the disaster through the lenses of race and charity, blues music, and mobility and labor. The book’s title comes from Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” perhaps the best-known song about the flood. Mizelle notes that the devastation produced the richest groundswell of blues recordings following any environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, with more than fifty songs evoking the disruptive force of the flood and the precariousness of the levees originally constructed to protect citizens. Backwater Blues reveals larger relationships between social and environmental history. According to Mizelle, musicians, Harlem Renaissance artists, fraternal organizations, and Creole migrants all shared a sense of vulnerability in the face of both the Mississippi River and a white supremacist society. As a result, the Mississippi flood of 1927 was not just an environmental crisis but a racial event.
Challenging long-standing ideas of African American environmental complacency, Mizelle offers insights into the broader dynamics of human interactions with nature as well as ways in which nature is mediated through the social and political dynamics of race. Includes discography.
Backwater Blues was reviewed in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Sept 2015, Vol 5, issue 3, 491–92. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13412-015-0287-z
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which covered nearly thirty thousand square miles across seven states, was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history. Due to the speed of new media and the slow progress of the flood, this was the first environmental disaster to be experienced on a mass scale. As it moved from north to south down an environmentally and technologically altered valley, inundating plantations and displacing nearly a million people, the flood provoked an intense and lasting cultural response. The Flood Year 1927 draws from newspapers, radio broadcasts, political cartoons, vaudeville, blues songs, poetry, and fiction to show how this event took on public meanings.
Americans at first seemed united in what Herbert Hoover called a “great relief machine,” but deep rifts soon arose. Southerners, pointing to faulty federal levee design, decried the attack of Yankee water. The condition of African American evacuees in “concentration camps” prompted pundits like W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells to warn of the return of slavery to Dixie. And environmentalists like Gifford Pinchot called the flood “the most colossal blunder in civilized history.” Susan Scott Parrish examines how these and other key figures–from entertainers Will Rogers, Miller & Lyles, and Bessie Smith to authors Sterling Brown, William Faulkner, and Richard Wright–shaped public awareness and collective memory of the event.
The crises of this period that usually dominate historical accounts are war and financial collapse, butThe Flood Year 1927 enables us to assess how mediated environmental disasters became central to modern consciousness.
+ T.S. McMillin, The Meaning of Rivers: Flow and Reflection in American Literature (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press) 2011
Wild River, 1960, director Elia Kazan, Tennessee Valley
Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012, director Ben Zeitlin
Harold Fisk, The Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River 1944, 15 Plates, the maps visually track the meanderings of the Mississippi from “ancient courses” through 1765, 1820, 1880, and 1944. Maps produced and published by the U.S. Army Corp pf Engineers Mississippi River Commission. HIgh resolution files can be accessed at http://lmvmapping.erdc.usace.army.mil/ additional information at: http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?fisk