This chapter discusses how the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 exposed the chronic and longstanding social and economic precariousness of the Delta. The flood made visible the combination of history and natural history that had produced it. Economic and social commentator Stuart Chase was a northerner who looked critically at the flood as a sign of systemic trouble. In the book Rich Land, Poor Land (1936), he contemplated not only the 1927 flood but also the still unfolding Dust Bowl, averring that his was a time of environmental “boomerangs.” Chase perceived the river not as a willful agent but rather one neutral part of various natural and humanly altered cycles, systems, and histories. Thus, to understand 1927 in the Delta, we have to understand that industrial “gallop” which occurred throughout the Mississippi watershed after the Civil War.
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