April 25, 1927: The situation is dire. Downtown Greenville is covered in 10 feet of water. Thirteen thousand African Americans are stranded on an eight-foot-wide levee with little shelter. There is no food. The city's water supply is contaminated. The railway has been washed away, and sanitation is non-existent. An outbreak of cholera or typhoid is imminent.
Will Percy believes the only honorable course of action is to evacuate the refugees. However, the area's white planters fear that if the African American refugees leave, they will never return, and there will be no labor to work their crops.
LeRoy Percy, a former U. S. senator and a constant advocate of fair treatment for African Americans, a man who stood up against the Ku Klux Klan, places his business interests above his family's tradition of aiding those less fortunate. He betrays his son and secretly sides with the planters, convincing the flood relief committee not to evacuate the refugees.
In 1999, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE asked users the following questions. Here are the results:
Do you think LeRoy Percy's act of betrayal at the time of the flood negates all the good he did for Greenville, and for the African American community there?
If you found yourself in the circumstances of the 1927 disaster, with your home filled with ten feet of water, and with floodwaters extending for 45 miles in all directions, would you try to stay in the area, or would you leave, knowing it might be a permanent departure?
Total number of poll participants: 935
Of the participants polled thus far, 448 watched at least half of the film; of those, 297 said the film influenced their vote.
My American Experience
We invite you to tell us your own stories - whether you lived through a tumultuous time period or learned about it from a relative, a book or a movie.