I was once a happy resident of Baton Rouge, a Yankee transplant in the early 80s and happy to be there. What a wonderful place to live.
Below is a fine writer’s discussion of Katrina and the people of Louisiana, the reasons for the disaster that can be traced back to the 19th century, believe or not.
I still get a charge out of visiting my old friends, I even have an old friend who deservedly is now a Federal Judge who got to take the bench in Baton Rouge after an extraordinary career in law.
I studied Louisiana like any curious Yankee from Nebraska should because it is a wonderful place with things unique, food, culture, the swamps, the lush countryside, the ante bellum plantations. Like going to another country.
Louisiana is special in the South, French influence, the Mighty Mississippi, but in the 20th Century it became a separate political entity too with the rise of populist, socialist politics promoted by Huey Long, the Kingfish, who changed Louisiana forever.
So I was told when I asked how to understand Louisiana better, to read the great biography, Huey Long (1969 LSU Press) by T Harry Williams, Pulitzer Prize and National Book award winner.
Later in life I read the story of the great flood of 1927, a monumental book that covered the efforts and debates between engineers on how to control the Mississippi (levees v outlet relief) and the politics of the flood itself, John Barry’s Rising Tide 1997 Simon and Schuster) on the recommendation of a Texas neighbor who came from New Orleans. Extraordinary book about an a cataclysmic event, politically and socially. In fact the flood was critical to the rise of Huey Long, who then dominated Louisiana and even national politics until his assassination in the State Capitol that he built when he was a US Senator and potential rival to FDR. You may recall–“Chicken in every pot” and “Every man a King.”
My recommendation on the best book about Katrina was a book by a New Orleans journalist and media man, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas G. Brinkley (2006). Brinkley wrote a big book, and covered New Orleans but also the Gulf Coast, politics, response, the boob mayor Nagin, the pathetic Governor Blanco, the crime and degradation, the race and social nature of the events, how the storm waters changed New Orleans forever.
Back to the Katrina anniversary and this great writer’s 2 part series.