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Voices From the Flood

What was it like for the residents of the Mississippi Delta in spring 1927, as torrential rains fell and the river rose steadily to flood stage? After the levees broke, what did people do to survive? How did the flood affect the Delta's population, ultimately?

One window into life during and after the flood is Delta blues music, which was blossoming in Mississippi at the time of the disaster. Blues artists from Bessie Smith to Barbecue Bob recorded over 30 songs related to the Great Flood of 1927. Though many blues performers did not personally experience the flood, they understood the hardships the Delta's predominantly African American sharecropper population faced.

After the flood, the Delta would never be the same. With their meager crops destroyed, and feeling deeply mistrustful of white Delta landlords after their poor treatment as refugees, thousands of African Americans left the area. Many headed north to seek their fortunes in Chicago. The blues migrated too, and Chicago became a center for African American music.

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