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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


                  New...

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