A Photo Tour of the Flooded Mississippi, 1927

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Aug. 14 2014 12:30 PM

A Photo Tour of the Flooded Mississippi, 1927

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Images of the intense flooding around the United States this week brought to mind this Mississippi Department of Archives and History Flickr set, which collects flood images taken by photographers for the Illinois Central Railroad Company during the Mississippi River floods of 1927.

In the spring of 1927, rains that were much heavier than usual overloaded the tributaries of the river. As historian Pete Daniel points out, “the cumulative tinkering of humans”—logging, farming—combined with the abnormal rainfall to create disastrous conditions. Levees broke, and, in the end, more than 16.5 million acres flooded in seven states. The flood dislocated 637,000 people and killed between 250 and 500.

Advertisement

The railroad’s “flood committee” was sent to examine damage along the train lines in the Mississippi Delta. The images capture the coping strategies of citizens trying to save infrastructure and belongings from rising waters, as well as the racial injustices that the emergency circumstances had exacerbated.

CommitteeMap

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The flood committee’s trip map, which charts the stops of the group as they moved from north to south to assess the damage, shows the extent of the flooding at various times in the spring.  

Egremont

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

In Egremont, Miss., people hauled possessions and livestock up onto the highest point—possibly tracks—near the railroad depot, May 2, 1927.

Helm

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Near Helm, Miss., two members of the committee stand on a partially submerged track, where a group appears to be trying to move a stuck train car, May 9, 1927.

BirdsongCamp

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Refugees queue in a camp near Cleveland, Miss, April 29, 1927. As John M. Barry writes in his history of the flood, African-American refugee laborers who stacked sandbags on the levees were housed in camps like this one. Often, they were not allowed to leave, since the owners of the plantations where they worked were afraid of losing their tenants.

CarOnPorch

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

In Greenville, Miss., on April 29, 1927, two citizens pulled their car up onto their porch steps, in hopes of preserving it.

GreenvilleMainSt

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

A street in Greenville, given over to water, April 20, 1927.

AnimalsOnTracks

Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

View from a railroad water tank, in Leland, Miss., April 30, 1927, showing livestock brought to the highest point and stationed on the tracks. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?