Mud, Blood, and the Blues

Anissa Janine Wardi

in Water and African American Memory

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037455
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042343 | DOI:
Mud, Blood, and the Blues

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This chapter builds on the relationship between water and trauma beginning with the Middle Passage, and specifically reads floods as an extended metaphor for African American life on the Mississippi Delta. It contextualizes Hurricane Katrina and the floodwaters that drowned New Orleans and the surrounding areas in terms of the Galveston Flood of 1900 and the 1927 Mississippi Flood. Though flood waters may be colorblind, African American communities have disproportionately borne the greatest burden of these disasters. Driving the chapter is an analysis of Richard Wright's “Down by the Riverside” and “The Man Who Saw the Flood,” each of which stories provides a glimpse into the unfolding African Diaspora. The chapter theorizes the literary, symbolic, and material meanings to be found in African American conceptions of waterways—literal and metaphoric, political and geographic. Providing a context for reading Hurricane Katrina—a natural and man-made disaster which gave way to the destruction of lives, homes, and an entire metropolis—it concludes that bodies of water are infused with the body politic of the nation.

Keywords: Hurricane Katrina; Mississippi Delta; Delta Blues; Richard Wright; Down by Riverside; Galveston Flood; 1927 Mississippi Flood; mud

Chapter.  10093 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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