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"Perhaps all of this had nothing to do with the 1927 flood," he writes. "Or perhaps it did." How can he possibly question the facts presented in his own narrative? Clearly, the levies that are supposed to keep the Mississippi River out of New Orleans, and the river's busy port, which is supposed to be one of the most powerful economic engines for New Orleans, are not providing the sustaining support each is supposed to provide.
Barry mentions that because of Hoover's relationship with Moton (albeit Hoover used Moton to gain political support) Moton had access to the White House, "...more than any black man other than a servant had ever had." So the flood made interesting political "bedfellows" because Barry goes on to assert that though Hoover gave Moton "repeated promises" of help and of land resettlement actions, Hoover did "little for blacks" in his administration. There is nothing original or revolutionary in Hoover saying one thing and doing another (politicians are known for promising things they can't deliver) but by inviting Moton into the White House, Barry writes, as a direct response to the flood and its politics, this was news.
It cannot be overlooked that the 1927 flood actually gave huge powers to the Army Corps of Engineers, and it also presented engineers with "a legacy of new problems that engineers must deal with today" (Barry 422). Of course Barry's book was published in 1997, and so while he couldn't have predicted the Katrina disaster, he suggests cultural and social trouble ahead when he writes (422) that the flood "penetrated to the core of the nation, washed away surface, and revealed the nation's character." The flood then tested that character "and changed it."
Importantly, in the social aftermath of the flood, a whole population shift took place, which meant that geographically African-Americans were moving north, away from the troubles they experienced (in racial and social terms) in Mississippi and Louisiana. Barry writes that the flood "...shattered the myth of a quasi-feudal bond between Delta blacks and the southern aristocracy." What he means by that is blacks could no longer trust that the political and social leaders would protect them in times of crisis. "...Black Delta sharecroppers looked north to Chicago and west to Los Angeles, and out onto the freshly replenished fields" (422).
In his Appendix: The River Today, Barry acknowledges that "Project Flood" has several weak spots, and as was mentioned earlier, the rains and winds and high waters caused by Hurricane Katrina exposed some of those weak spots. The Corps of Engineers claimed that the levies they built would handle a flood "11% greater" in places than the 1927 flood could handle. That seems a bit out of place given what we know now about the levies around New Orleans.
The Army engineers were ordered by the Jadwin Plan "...to design an inexpensive plan" (425) and that plan, Barry notes, means that the levee system "...falls short of its design specifications." A year before his book was published, Barry's research showed that 304 miles of the levees failed to meet design height specifications; and although "most" of the levees were only one or two feet below standards, several miles between Greenville and Vicksburg "fell 6 feet short."
In conclusion, given the amount of detailed research that Barry conducted in putting this book together, it seems that he could have, in the Appendix, offered an opinion to readers as to what he believed should be done to protect the communities along the Mississippi from future disasters. "Many engineers" say the river will eventually "shift its channel to the Atchafalaya," but Barry doesn't offer an opinion as to what that would mean. He ends by saying that "man [is] determined to assert his will over the river," but clearly - in this reader's viewpoint - the river has a will of its own. Moreover, Barry could well have advocated that the federal government assume responsibility for leadership. His evidence is believable and strong, and though he could have provided more statistics on how many black families fled to Chicago and to Los Angeles, the book is convincing…[continue]
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