According to many historians, that relief effort was instrumental in propelling Hoover into the national spotlight and eventually helped him win the 1929 presidential election.
The Mississippi Flood as the Cause of Racial Tension
Approximately 650,000 people were directly affected by the Mississippi Flood of 1927, having to relocate because their homes, property, and entire communities were completely destroyed by the flood. Almost half of them were housed in relief camps of whom almost three-quarters were African-American. In many cases, the conditions sparked racial tensions and events such as what occurred in Greenville, Mississippi. More than 10,000 people were stranded without drinking water, food, or any other supplies for several days.
When boats finally arrived, they initially rescued only children and white women, leaving white men, and African-Americans. In another event that made nationwide headlines, police had been sent to round up relief workers from the “Negro” areas. When an African-American man refused orders to report for work, he was shot by police.
In many cases, the failure to rescue African-Americans (especially in Mississippi) was actually a deliberate decision by influential white landowners. They feared that if the African-American sharecroppers to whom they leased land and from whose work they profited were allowed to evacuate the region, they would choose not to return.
They were, in effect, imprisoned at the levees by wealthy white men in a manner reminiscent of the slavery era in the American South. Other specific incidents of racial violence and the racial tensions that they and the general treatment of African-Americans in the flood-affected regions caused in the regions eventually resulted in the largest migration of African-Americans toward the Northeast since the post- Civil War era a half century earlier.
During his campaign for the U.S. presidency the following year, Herbert Hoover made various promises in relation to racial inequalities and pledged to improve the status and living conditions of African-Americans. Those promises contributed to his victory in 1929. However, his failure to follow through with many of those promises, the relatively unchanged circumstances of African-Americans during the four years of his first presidential term, together with the 1929 Stock Market Crash are believed to have been largely responsible for his defeat in the 1932 presidential election.
The Mississippi Flood of 1927 was a natural disaster not attributable to human error or oversight. Unprecedented rainfall simply overwhelmed the physical barriers provided by the levees that relied on early 20th century technology, materials, and building methods. Ironically, major aspects of the federal governments response to the disaster and the subsequent relief efforts were so efficient that they helped propel their principal architect to the U.S. presidency two years later.
On the other hand, the immediate aftermath of the flood also rekindled intense racial inequalities and showed many African-Americans that the American South was simply not a place where they could ever hope to achieve racial or economic equality. As a result, many southern African-Americans decided to migrate north, more so than at any other time since the end of the American Civil War. To a great degree,.