The Great Flood of 1927 had a major effect on African American culture and music. Specifically the Mississippi Delta blues. The blues is a genre of music created by African American communities of the deep south at the end of the 19th century. The blues consist of themes such as; relationships, emotions, work, sex, problems, travel, and life. There are more, but these are the most common themes of blues music. The Mississippi River flood of 1927 actually started in the summer of 1926 with heavy rain on the central basin that eventually overtook the levee systems which were ineffective against the flood.
According to Wikipedia, the floods were so bad that they flooded over 27,000 square miles which was double the volume of the amount of water in Niagara Falls. In April of 1927, there was 15 inches of rain that came down on the city of New Orleans, with floods up to 4 feet high covering some parts of the city. Wikipedia also states that the flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states. Clearly, the flood was destructive and did extensive damage to the cities near the Mississippi River. According to the Encyclopedia of Louisiana, almost 1 million people were displaced from their homes.
According to msbluestrail. org, after the flood, record companies were looking for blues artists who were making songs about the flood. These companies were looking for specific themes about the destruction of the flood, deaths, injustice that was brought on from the flood. Mainly because it was a hot topic and knew that music would be popular amongst the black communities who were effected by the disaster. There were many songs made by blues artists about the flood, three of them were called Lonnie Johnson’s “Broken Levee Blues,” Charlie Patton’s “High Water Everywhere,” and Barbecue Bob’s “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues. In “Broken Levee Blues,” Lonnie Johnson references how he was forced to work the levee, he was scared the levee would break and flood his home, the police forced him to work or he would go to jail, but he refused to work. The people that were affected by the flood can definitely relate to this song, it was probably very popular when it was released. In Charlie Patton’s, “High Water Everywhere,” he references everything being flooded and says he’s going to move to Greenville and Vicksburg because they are cities in the north that would not flood.
This probably had an influence on the people who decided to migrate north to find new homes away from the flood zones. In Barbecue Bob’s “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,” he seems to be sad because the flood destroyed his home, it took the life of his lover, he has no money and nothing is left but mud everywhere. Many others could relate to what this song expressed which is why it was a hit. The Great Flood of the Mississippi River had a major impact on the Great Migration of African Americans from the deep south of the United States to the North.
Wikipedia states that blacks moved from 14 states of the south with most of the people leaving Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana to the west, Midwest, and the north regions. The flood forced people t o leave the areas affected by it because people could not live there anymore. Many African Americans were able to find jobs and start new lives in cities like Chicago, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit. Most families and individuals were out on their own, the government did not give them any assistance. The flood effected some cities in a positive way because their economy started to boost.
Cities like Cleveland became industrialized. Everything was not all good for the southern migrants in their new cities as they still suffered from discrimination, but they were headed in the right direction. The roots of the blues were derived from slave workers, church music, and field hollers. According to the University of Chicago website, The Great Migration brought jazz musicians north for the same reasons that other people did: failing crops, the flood, better pay, and discrimination in the south. Many of the African-Americans from the south moved north, including the musicians.
This had an effect on the transformation of blues music to other genres like the Chicago Blues. The blues were transforming from music that was being played in the fields, to being played in the clubs and started to grow in popularity which was different than what most of America was used to. Most people listened to European music so they were not used to the blues at first. I think that as many African Americans headed north, it was as if the blues were telling the rest of the blacks in the south to follow. The blues definitely had an impact on the great migration because they helped to convince more African Americans to move north.
The Great Flood of 1927 had a major effect on African American culture and music. Specifically the Mississippi Delta blues. The flood was extremely destructive and took many lives and left many people homeless. They were all forced to move away, but with the help of blues musicians it made life easier and gave the African American migrants something to believe in and hope for by listening to their music and seeing how they had become successful by moving north. The blues music began to evolve and turn into the popular music that we listen to today.