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'Rising Tide' Chronicles Flow of Changes

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 08:11 AM
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John M. Barry's Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and

                  How It Changed America, takes us back 70 years to a society that most

                  of us would hardly recognize.

                  In 1927, the Mississippi River flooded 27,000 square miles from Illinois

                  and Missouri south to the Gulf of Mexico. No one expected the

                  government to help the victims. President Calvin Coolidge even refused to

                  visit the area. As a result, the flood created and destroyed leaders:

                  Herbert Hoover, Coolidge's secretary of Commerce, was considered

                  politically dead until he took over rescue/relief efforts. His competence and

                  public relations skills sent him to the White House in 1928. (But his

                  duplicity in dealings with black leaders helped begin turning black voters

                  from the Republican Party of Lincoln to the Democrats.)

                  The Percy family, planters who had built an ``empire'' around Greenville,

                  Miss., moved onto the national, even the international, stage. In 1922,

                  LeRoy Percy's sense of obligation to blacks led him to fight the Ku Klux

                  Klan, then a national power.

                  Yet in 1927, Percy more than acquiesced when the Mississippi National

                  Guard held black refugees in camps, forcing them to work on levees in

                  conditions close to slavery.

                  In New Orleans, officials dynamited a levee south of the city. Water

                  washing across St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes relieved pressure on



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