Book ID: CBB971840782

Backwater Blues: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination (2014)


Mizelle, Richard M., Jr. (Author)

University of Minnesota Press

Publication Date: 2014
Physical Details: 209
Language: English

The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, reshaping the social and cultural landscape as well as the physical environment. Often remembered as an event that altered flood control policy and elevated the stature of powerful politicians, Richard M. Mizelle, Jr., examines the place of the flood within African American cultural memory and the profound ways it influenced migration patterns in the United States. In Backwater Blues, Mizelle analyzes the disaster through the lenses of race and charity, blues music, and mobility and labor. The book's title comes from Bessie Smith's 'Backwater Blues,' perhaps the best-known song about the flood. Mizelle notes that the devastation produced the richest groundswell of blues recordings following any environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, with more than fifty songs evoking the disruptive force of the flood and the precariousness of the levees originally constructed to protect citizens. Backwater Blues reveals larger relationships between social and environmental history. According to Mizelle, musicians, Harlem Renaissance artists, fraternal organizations, and Creole migrants all shared a sense of vulnerability in the face of both the Mississippi River and a white supremacist society. As a result, the Mississippi Flood of 1927 was not just an environmental crisis but a racial event.

Reviewed By

Review Sanford Ezelle, III (April 2017) Review of "Backwater Blues: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination". Technology and Culture (pp. 590-591). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Claborn, John
Young, Terence
Willis, William Shedrick
Zumwalt, Rosemany Lévy
Slaton, Amy E.
Watkins, Rachel J.
Environmental History
Current Anthropology
Health Affairs
Journal of American History
Agricultural History
Journal of African American Studies
American Philosophical Society
Harvard University Press
Oxford University Press
Berghahn Books
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bloomsbury Academic
African Americans
African Americans and science
Science and race
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Ickes, Harold LeClair
Du Bois, William Edward B.
Boas, Franz
Delany, Martin
Smith, James McCune
Davis, Allison
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
18th century
United States
Southern states (U.S.)
Mississippi River (North America)
Volga River
Ohio (U.S.)

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