Rising Tide

Rising Tide

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

Book - 1997
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In an epic that "is nothing less than the story of America itself" (Wil Hygood, The Boston Globe), Barry begins in the 19th century with man's battle to control the Mississippi River and the development of a unique society in the Delta and New Orleans. The tale ends with murder, dynamited levees, and national political changes that resonate today. The 1927 flood washed away a culture, elected Huey Long governor and Herbert Hoover president, and drove hundreds of thousands of blacks north.

"A gripping account of the mammoth flooding of 1927 that devastated Mississippi and Louisiana and sent political shock waves to Washington...Rising Tide is a brilliant match of scholarship and investigative journalism". -- Jason Berry, Chicago Tribune

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c1997.
ISBN: 9780684810461
Characteristics: 524 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm.


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Oct 19, 2018

I rated this book 3 stars. I think the value of the book depends upon your interests. The author makes his opinion of people and actions very clear. So while it is a very good review of the flood, it isn't as objective as I would have liked. He makes pretty severe judgements upon the players, doing a lot of arm-chair quarterbacking. For example, many are considered "brilliant fools" in the author's opinion. For me, this detracted from the story and colors his review of what happened.

My interest was the flood. If you are interested in that, then I would recommend skipping the first 150 pages and much of the end of the book. But if you are interested in the peoples and times of the life along the Mississippi in the 1920s, then this will be a good read.

May 20, 2016

John Barry is one of my favorite writers of popular history and "Rising Tide" is one of his best. His books usually center on specific episodes or events, but he goes into considerable detail about the cultural, social, political and intellectual milieus in which they occurred. In the case of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, Barry goes into detail about the 19th century conflict over how to manage the river between the Army Corps of Engineers and the self-taught St. Louis based engineer, James Eads. The author argues that the Corps won that fight, but that the later flood confirmed Eads' position. Barry also discusses how the political and social climate in New Orleans led to the sacrifice of some down stream communities in an effort to minimize damage to parts of the city. And in yet another facet of the episode, he asserts that the horrendously discriminatory management of the federal disaster relief effort of the Coolidge administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, began the alienation of African Americans from the Republican party and that accelerated in the following decade as the Franklin Roosevelt administration reached out to that community, mainly through his wife Eleanor. It's well over a decade since I read "Rising Tide," but it is still vivid in my memory. I recommend with equal enthusiasm Barry's "The Great Influenza," about the 1918 flu epidemic.


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