The mighty Mississippi River is spilling its secrets and authorities say that the flooding will not rival or equal the Great Flood of 1927, which left thousands of people homeless and killed hundreds. Great steps have been taken since that Mississippi River disaster 80 years ago, mainly government engineers creating levees and spillways.
John M. Barry, author of “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood and How It Changed America,” speaking to NPR, said the current flooding is serious but “within the design capacity of the [flood control] system.”
He also pointed out that our government, this time, is apt to help those who have already met disaste, a vast change in attitude and action compared to 80 years ago when nothing was done.
Hundreds of thousands of people were forced into refugee camps and depended on the Red Cross for food. The government, which ran a record surplus that year, “didn’t spend a single penny to feed or clothe or help rehabilitate these people,” Barry said.
“There was no expectation [at the time] that the government would do anything for any individual citizen,” he said. “I believe 1927 reversed that.”
The Mississippi is an entity in and of itself and has been celebrated in music and literature for years. William Faulkner and Mark Twain used the River in a number of their stories and novels including “The Bear” and Twain’s most famous work “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In music, Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Goon Squad South, Afro Man, Uncle Kracker, Rick Ross, Led Zeppelin, Conway Twitty and Jazbo Brown, credited with giving jazz its name, all have recorded songs about the river that’s more than a river.
87-year-old Rufus Harris Jr., who moved to New Orleans just a few months after the Great Flood of 1927, told The Associated Press he was too young to remember the disaster, but that he was taught to have a healthy respect for the mighty Mississippi.
“People have a right to be concerned in this area because there’s always a possibility of a levee having a defective spot,” Harris said.
Lets hope the levees hold.
After the break, the Mississippi River in American Culture.
The 1936 musical “Showboat”‘s central musical piece is “Ol’ Man River,” a spiritual based on the Mississippi River.
Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” is a cover of Memphis Minnie’s song about the 1927 flood.
One of Mark Twain’s most famous works of literature is “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which takes place on the Mississippi River.
Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty’s “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” was a love song about how the river and its gators couldn’t keep love apart.
Rick Ross & Usher teamed up for Ross’s “Looking For Love.” The song name checks the Mississippi River.