High Water, Power Politics, Disaster Management: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

This is a 10-week seminar, starting on February 22, 2017.

Moderator:                David Neelon
Day and Time:         Wednesday, 9:30-11:30 AM
Format:                      Seminar
Location:                   Smith College, Lilly Hall 3rd floor, Northampton
(parking permit required; provided to participants by moderator)

To examine how big money, political power, social exploitation, bureaucracy, and new engineering techniques combined to manage one of the greatest natural calamities in American history. And, what was left behind?

What makes a flood?
How does it develop over time and territory? What dimensions and features made this one the greatest in our history to date? How are floods (this flood) controlled (or not).
We will also look at the engineers, politicians (including Huey Long, and Calvin Coolidge), the money men and politicians behind everything, and the emergence of Herbert Hoover.  We’ll also have the opportunity to look at the economic and social costs of the flood, the role of the KKK both in Mississippi and Washington, who gets flooded and who does not, the people who lost everything and what happened to them.

The flood of 1927 also leaves us with these questions: can it happen again; where; and whose ox will be gored next time.

Role of participants:
Participants will choose, research, and report upon a topic. The participant will facilitate one of the day’s two sessions, make a 20-minute report, and lead class discussion. Many suggested topics will be provided before classes begin. Participants are encouraged to add their own, especially if based on relevant expertise. Slides and films may be included in presentations. All participants will read the text assigned, study other material of interest to them, and participates in active discussion.

Assigned reading consists of one excellent book: Rising Tide, the Great Mississippi Flood and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry. Simon & Schuster, 1997, readily available in paper.
The text is well indexed, footnoted, and includes a comprehensive bibliography.
A wealth of additional material can be found using Web searches.

About the Moderator:
David Neelon led a seminar on Andrea Barrett. He published a biography on the Quaker, James Nayler. His interest in the Great Flood comes from a paddlewheel steamboat trip down the Mississippi and reading Mark Twain and William Faulkner