Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it

The 1927 Mississippi flood

In 1927, the great Mississippi flood rumbled down upon New Orleans. As Barry writes in his account, “Rising Tide,” the disaster ripped the veil off the genteel, feudal relations between whites and blacks, and revealed the festering iniquities. Blacks were rounded up into work camps and held by armed guards. They were prevented from leaving as the waters rose. A steamer, the Capitol, played “Bye Bye Blackbird” as it sailed away. The racist violence that followed the floods helped persuade many blacks to move north.

Civic leaders intentionally flooded poor and middle-class areas to ease the water’s pressure on the city, and then reneged on promises to compensate those whose homes were destroyed. That helped fuel the populist anger that led to Huey Long’s success. Across the country people demanded that the federal government get involved in disaster relief, helping to set the stage for the New Deal. The local civic elite turned insular and reactionary, and New Orleans never really recovered its preflood vibrancy.

What’s happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

Deliberate rupturing of levees.

1) Ms Lavy echoed the thoughts and words of many black Americans we spoke to over the weekend who, while often heroic or stoic in the face of the death and depravity around them, were deeply bitter and angry at the rich white people who run their country.

“They opened the levees to save the whole neighbourhood to protect their investments,” declared Larry Crawford, 34, believing as many sincerely do that some districts were deliberately flooded to relieve the pressure on the dykes protecting others.

2) Corp officials were saying that
they’d need to intentionally rupture levees elsewhere in the New Orleans area to drain water behind them that is standing higher than lake level.

Water that will drain from where to where?