Survey Associates.

The Survey (Volume 58) online

. (page 82 of 130)
Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 82 of 130)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


miracle. It has warned out or moved out, encamped and
fed, perhaps a half-million refugees; and with an average
loss of life since it took hold of about one in one hundred
thousand. This is a far smaller toll than automobiles would
have taken had life gone on as usual in the Mississippi Basin.
The Red Cross has scotched the two epidemics which always
threaten in such emergency typhoid fever and smallpox.
Without doubt, in the period of emergency the Red Cross
lowered the mortality rates of the southern states.

Humanity they saved children, women and men first.
With domestic animals, they accomplished less. To get a
horse from a flood-besieged levee takes a special kind of
craft. He is bulky, too ; he occupies the space of eight or
ten human beings. A cow is perhaps out at pasture when
disaster strikes. Caught, she may develop panic, grow utterly
unmanageable. To disinfect the carcasses which lie rotting
in forests and pasture-lands between Cairo and the
Gulf, the Red Cross is shipping in lime compounds by the
carload.

Faced by these two necessities humans and animals the
Hoover organization had little time or energy for saving
property and possessions. Indeed, in the brief period of the
emergency, all the transport of the Mississippi Valley could
scarcely have carted away the stocks in the stores and ware-
houses, the machinery both fixed and movable, the thousand
and one implements of daily use which civilization calls
necessities.

The inhabitants themselves might have salvaged a good
deal more of their portable goods but for one trait of human
nature which everywhere complicated rescue-work. Part of
them showed a lack of imagination or an excess of hope.
Their district going under water? No sir. It had never
been inundated before. It wasn't going to be now. They
didn't propose to listen to a lot of knockers. Common
prudence became cowardice. Spite of frantic warnings from
the state authorities, from Hoover, from the levee engineers,
they hung on. And next, they were signalling from the top
of a levee for boats. Often where circumstances permitted,
the men stayed behind to rush furniture into the second
story, hoping that the water would not reach so far.
But in general, except for non-corrosible goods like
glass and crockery, the possessions of the inhabitants are
ruined; and their homes are either transformed into waste
timber, or badly damaged. Railroads, highways, public
utilities, public works of every kind, face the necessity for
repairs which will cost many, many millions.

Only one who has sailed across new lakes twenty miles



long overlying farms, homesteads and hamlets, who has seen
broken levees drop cataracts on the houses below them, can
understand the nature of this unprecedented calamity ; and
even his imagination cannot grasp its extent.

But this is over; the hard pull back to normal has com-
menced. The disaster workers of the Red Cross have
moved out of the northern districts, and gone on to stricken
Louisiana, which bore the brunt. In their place, work an-
other set of officials whose business it is to break up the
camps, get the inhabitants back on the land and provide
immediate necessities, such as seed. The 'Basin will not lose
its entire production this year. In areas where the waters
drain off, the farmers will get a short crop, of vegetables
if nothing else. In other districts, however, the great lakes
will lie over the fields until evaporation does its work,
which may not be until next year.

EVEN ahead of the floods, Hoover was arranging with
the state and federal authorities and the banks for a
system of guaranteed credits through which the farmers
may begin to restore the land, the merchants to replenish
their stocks. This, it seems, will carry the Basin through
the winter. Generally, the inhabitants have shown the
brighter side of that same sturdiness which made them stick
so long to their habitations. Hoover has said that they do
not want charity or subsidies ; only the credit which will set
them on their feet. All the leaders to whom I talked con-
firmed this attitude. The necessity for easement of their
burdens may arise next year; but they will struggle through
the winter. Calling a special session of Congress might have
served only to muddle the situation. Especially so, since
nothing could have restrained some of our elected repre-
sentatives from trying to get immediate and premature ac-
tion on the great problem of the future as concerns this
region making safe the Mississippi.

The levee system as begun nearly a century ago and
generally improved since, has failed grant that. It broke
down partly through flaws engendered by its haphazard his-
tory, but mainly because no one ever believed such a flood
possible. The river fooled us. Until the returns are all in,
until the data has undergone the slow process of coordination
and interpretation, we shall not know in scientific terms ex-
actly what happened. Still less can any detached person
even the best hydraulic engineer choose fairly between the
spillway schemes, the reserve reservoir schemes, the enlarged-
levee schemes, now filling the mouths of persons who do not
begin to know what they are talking about. This premature
agitation serves only one purpose ; it may keep us at white
heat of zeal until, the river engineers having compiled their
data and spoken, Congress takes the matter up. For it has to
be done ; and we are faced with the perplexing question of
who will pay for it. This last involves a multitude of special
and local interests and conflicts. Mechanically, the job seems
almost as great as construction of the Panama Canal. That,
however, involved no specially difficult problems of internal
politics. This does.




Wide World Photos

Ex-Qovernor John M. Parker of Louisiana




is no question that the Mississippi
Valley represents the most fertile and pro-
ductive section in the world. Its prosperity
and the safety of its inhabitants is a matter
in which the people of the entire United
States are deeply and vitally interested.
This \ alley alone could produce every commodity necessary
to feed and clothe the nation. Without holding post
mortems over past conditions, the nation should look for-
ward to protecting this great garden spot forever from the
danger of overflow.

The breaking up of the great farms is a certainty.
Nowhere else can the small farmer find a more pleasant and
profitable occupation than in this territory with its mild
climate, wonderful soil and great possibilities in every known
variety of agriculture, poultry-raising, dairying and other in-
dustries necessary for the public welfare and so ideally situ-
ated for the health and happiness of those farmers and their
families, the latter largely to form the future of America.
Every thinking person will realize that sectional lines are
wiped out for all time and that the man from the North,
the East, or the West coming here will be cordially wel-
comed. The independent self-respecting Caucasian, seeking to
make his home happy and contented, taking advantage of our
splendid system of schools, highways and churches, will not
only be attracted to this country but will learn to love it as
do those among us who have been fighting against heavy odds
caused by the fact that our troubles are due to no carelessness
on our part but largely to deforestation, tile drainage and the
burling at us in an irresistible flood of the waters of our
thirty sister states between the Appalachians and the Rockies.
Our appeal for absolute control by the national govern-



Louisiana Looks

to Washington

By JOHN M. PARKER

ment of our levees is a matter of fairness and justice. If I
build a dam and impound the waters, and it breaks and
damages another, the courts have repeatedly fixed the finan-
cial liability on me that is, on the party responsible for
the damage. But it would be not only impossible but not
desired by any of us to go to the courts against those people
in our sister states who are improving their property with
the help of engineers and thereby hurting us when those
waters break loose. It is the belief of a great
many of us in the lower Mississippi Valley
that if the facts were properly put before
them the national government would not
only assume absolute control of our levees
but that this action would meet with the over-
whelming approval of the American people.
Sitting in my office yesterday three delega-
tions called from the parishes of St. Landry,
Iberia and Avoyelles, which were threatened
with a break in the levee. Many of these
people had been my personal friends for years.
After two seasons of crop failure, they now have one of the
nirst satisfactory prospects in years. They came in, some
with drawn faces showing emotion, telling how their corn
is more than knee-high, others of their cotton branching out
beautifully, their rice crops fine and their sugar cane grow-
ing rapidly with a splendid stand. They came to make a
plea for help to save them, because if this disaster should
follow two years of depression it would mean eternal ruin.

. These sections are occupied by some of the thriftiest and
most patriotic people in America, who own their own homes,
small farms which furnish their every need and leave them
ordinarily a surplus. They have never begged. They do not
want charity. They are noted for their fidelity in meeting
their obligations. If disaster should come now their only sal-
vation would be in securing funds to be repaid over a term of
years to enable them to repair and put their property in shape
for another crop. [A week after this was written the three
parishes mentioned were six feet under water. Editor]

Ordinary floods in our country have been borne with
stoicism. In 1922 no requests were made for contributions.
But with the untoward conditions of this year and disaster
after disaster crowding upon us, positive assurance should be
given us that the United States government will meet its
obligation to protect lives and property; and take immediate
steps toward that end that will enable us again to go to
work with renewed vigor in the certainty that with govern-
ment control and construction of levees the entire Mississippi
Valley will become the garden spot of America.

Don't invest our funds in the Old World. Place them
with our own people where they will prove a blessing,
ensure their rapid recovery and earn the everlasting thanks
of those whose lives and investments will be made safe.



359



Up from the Bottom Lands



By ARTHUR KELLOGG



Mississippi Delta is the bottom of the
United States. The bottom lands from
Cairo to the Gulf have been built up one
painful inch upon another from the alternate
flooding and drying of an uncontrolled
river. More, the people of the bottoms,
excepting those of New Orleans and the other cities, the




planters and occasional odd
of Louisiana, are, in the
mass, a population of Ameri-
cans definitely below the na-
tional standard of living.
They are sick, not only in
the sense that all of us are
sick from time to time; they
are plagued with diseases
which the rest of us have
more or less thrown off. Not
only are they poor, they are
in debt, and they are in debt
in such a way that they are
bound to the land by their
debts ; landlords and tenants,
white and black alike, in the
mass they are peons. They
are illiterate, so much so that
as a visitor to the refugee
camps during the flood I was
at once struck with the ab-
sence of bulletins and learned
that all notices and even the
simple rules of the camp
must be made known by
word of mouth. They are
the victims of a one-crop
agriculture; the results of
their year's work may hang
on the word of far-off
bankers, on a war in
Europe, on a market cen-
tering in another conti-
nent, on competition newly
sprung up in four con-
tinents, on the buying power



groups like the Acadians




\NELl, WHEN IT RAINS

ni> Too WET TO FIH IT

AMD WHEN IT'S DRY
WE J50NT NEED A ROOF







Cartoon by Knott, in the Dallas News

The shiftless attitude of the past



Foremost among such agencies is the Red Cross, which
has been on the ground since early April over a territory
six hundred miles long and has earned the active good will
of the whole population. It has the advantage of a con-
tinuing organization ; its local chapters, usually on a
county basis, are ready to carry on after the disaster reliei
workers, the surgeons and nurses from headquarters have
finished their task and moved on to meet other disasters.

The Red Cross has inevit-
ably proved an educationally
disruptive factor in the old
bottom life, perhaps second
only to the flood itself. It
has had in its camps for from
four to six weeks a total of
almost six hundred thousand
people, of whom the great
majority have been tenant
farmers and farm laborers
and their families, most oi
them Negroes. It has vac-
cinated more than one hun-
dred thousand of them in
spite of their misgivings that
the permission of "the boss"
ought first to be obtained ;
it has shot three hundred
thousand for typhoid. It has
fed them good food, in some
cases against the protests oi
planters who feared they
would go back home dissatis-
fied with the old victuals. It
has admitted to the camps
lecturers and preachers and
singers and recreation lead-
ers, many from Negro col-
leges, who have talked with
them about better ways of
living : how to screen against
malaria and to avoid typhoid,
how to grow vegetables and
what vegetables to plant for



on the buying power of the English pound.
For two months the flood has thrown the plight of these
Americans onto the front pages of every newspaper in the
country, a panorama of printer's ink and pictures as long as
the Delta itself and quite like it a black-and-white ribbon
of suffering. The people of the country have given eagerly
for flood relief. The next step is to discover what may be
done by way of permanent improvement after the sixteen-
million-dollar relief fund has been spent, what agencies
have the entree to the field and how they may bring to
bear their resources and experience in a way to lift the
Delta civilization toward that good life which it is our
reasonable ambition to make possible for all people in the
United States.



a varied diet. On leaving camp every family has been
given packets of quick-growing vegetable seed and with
instructions about planting so that in a few weeks in this
hot, moist country there may be fresh food of a variety
which perhaps has never been eaten there before. That,
too, displeases some of the planters, for they want every
foot of ground planted to cotton "Cotton to the door-
step"- and they want the tenants to buy food from the
plantation store. It is a common sight to see farmers buying
sweet potatoes and corn at the store in a country where
both can grow almost without cultivation.

There have been no epidemics in the camps, but the usual
number of cases of measles, mumps and the like came in
with the refugees, and there have been more than the ex-



360



pected number of births in a population of 600,000, for
the excitement of the flood has brought many premature
babies into the world.

ALL of these contacts and the daily inspection by surgeons
and nurses have been turned to good educational account.
Now for a time these by-products of flood relief will reach
into the homes of the refugees. One hundred and fifty-
eight of the Red Cross visiting nurses, of whom twenty-five
are Negro women, have been assigned to a month's follow-
up work, professionally under the state and local health
officers, administratively and financially under the Red Cross,
cooperatively with any visiting nurses already in the field.
There will be at least one to each flooded county of Missouri,
Arkansas and Mississippi^ with Louisiana, last of the states
to go under water, probably to be added on the same basis.
The immediate program, as outlined by the director of the
Red Cross Public Health Service, Elizabeth G. Fox, is to
fend against malaria, typhoid and dysentery, which might
easily break out into epidemics in a country of mos-
quitoes, slowly drying mud, dead animals and flooded
outhouses.

The instructions to the nurses emphasize the need of
completing the inoculations against typhoid to the point
where possibly the whole population over five years of age
may be protected, screening against mosquitoes, boiling milk
and drinking water. Again educational work is emphasized.
Every act, every word of a nurse is educational among a
people where patent medicine and old wives' tales are the
usual family health program ; where, for instance, I saw
a mother drop the nipple from her baby's bottle on the earth
floor, step on it in reaching to pick it up, and put it back
on the bottle unwashed with no more thought than if it
had been the scissors she had dropped. Here, even a near-
sighted layman can see, a Red Cross nurse is worth her
weight in gold yes, and the 1,728 pounds of her flivver.
Her influence, her example, her competent, uniformed
entrance into an unpainted cabin are the beginning of health
and child-care and the ABC's of a program of education
among grown-ups who cannot read. The Red Cross will
miss an opportunity for service which would not be
characteristic of the Red Cross if it does not keep its
nurses regularly at work in the whole flood area
until such a time, probably not earlier than the
sale of the next cotton crop, as the local chapters
can take over the expense.

Likewise, the surgeons and sanitary inspectors
of the United States Public Health Service should
be kept on the job until the state and local depart-
ments of health can take over the cost. The whole
health program should be based on the principle
of meeting needs; not of holding back and wait- J
ing until a stricken country can afford the measure
of health work common to more prosperous dis-
tricts. These health workers should not only fol-
low up on the usual sanitary lines and on the anti-
malaria campaigns so admirably conducted under
the stimulation of the International Health Board,
but they should have an eye to other diseases ever-
present in the Delta, such as syphilis. And they
might well remember that occasional outbreaks of
smallpox in the North can often be traced to new-
comers from the South fleeing from floods and
carrying their infections with them.



Beside the Red Cross, the other basic organization in the
reconstruction stage is the Reconstruction Commission
appointed in each state by the governor at the suggestion
of Mr. Hoover. These two organizations appoint a County
Committee in each county and select its chairman. The
County Committee will hereafter be the active agency
the place where men of all ranks will go to make
known all of their needs. It will administer the re-
lief, find the employment, advise on the credit. Inter-
estingly enough, as it turns out, the county committees
are almost identical in membership with the local Red
Cross chapters. The plan back of the county committees'
work is outlined in a memorandum drawn up by Mr.
Hoover and James L. Fieser, vice-chairman of the Red
Cross, of which the substance is given in the following
paragraph :

The reconstruction must be based: a, on credit; b, on em-
ployment; c, on relief. The first principle of reconstruction
is to exclude those who can wholly help themselves; second,
to aid by loan those who have a basis of credit; third, to secure
employment for those who can be gotten work; fourth, to give
relief where required. Loans are available from the Agri-
cultural Finance Corporation on reasonable terms for crop-
raising and other legitimate purposes. There will be available
employment in the industrial and utility reconstruction; relief
is available from the American National Red Cross on the
principle that relief shall be based upon need arising directly
from the flood, and not upon loss, that it shall give relief to
the destitute only, to enable them to reach self-support, and
that this shall be upon an individual and family basis.

Agricultural Finance Corporations have been organized
in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Subscriptions to
their stock, issued as debentures, have been secured in the
South to a total of $1,750,000. A similar amount has been
arranged for in the North, through the Chamber of Com-
merce of the United States as a result of the efforts of Mr.
Hoover and upon invitation of President Coolidge. The
paper of the finance corporations will be rediscounted by
the intermediate credit banks in the Federal Farm Loan
Bureau of the Treasury Department at the ratio of three
or four times their paid-in capital. Thus through the use
of an existing federal device for farm credits, the subscrip-
tions of $3,500,000 for flood credits will be turned into




A dub member and his animated text-book



MM^MMMHH

Demonstrating ways of canning surplus food for winter use or for sale



Education from the Bottom Up




Farm and horn-
demonstratior
agents have tht
prestige of grad
uation from
Negro college
Among simplt
folk they follou
Dr. Knapp':
formula: Tht
average man.
like the crow
cannot couni
more than three. !
Do the next
thing."



UP FROM THE B(



363



something over
ten million dol-
lars. Brought
down to earth and
into the pockets
of a farmer's
overalls, this
takes the form of
a loan at a local
bank in return for
a note secured by
a mortgage on
the crop or the
farm, running
until October i,
with interest at 6
per cent until
maturity and at
8 per cent there-
after.




Baby clinic held in the open air at the home of a Negro farmer



Eight per cent or more is the usual legal rate of which he is slowly buying it. This might be accomplished

interest in the South. The interest rates seem very high. by some adaptation of credits through the Federal Farm

To relieve victims of a flood, why shouldn't they have been Bureau, of which Eugene Meyer is the newly appointed

low, or nothing at all ? It has been repeatedly stated, but commissioner. As chief of the War Loan Corporation, Mr.

not officially confirmed, that Mr. Hoover tried very hard to Meyer saved the whole cotton-growing industry and some



secure lower rates but was unable to do so. The South is
used to high interest rates, it has less credit and fewer credit
facilities than other parts of the country, it realizes that
credit to people who are already in debt is risky and it felt
that subscriptions to the stock of the corporations could not
be secured on easier terms. In extenuation, it is widely
believed that the date on which the higher rate of interest
goes into effect and the other terms of the notes will, in
practice, be adjusted to the situations of the borrowers.
The credits are available for business men and tradesmen
as well as farmers but their need, it is stated, has been met
to a large degree by spontaneous offers of credit from
manufacturers and jobbers.

If, in a nation of stiff-necked _

individualists, and among South-
erners who are loath to ask for
relief or accept it (they asked for
none and got none in the big flood
of 1922), all of the farmers' losses
cannot be made good out of public
funds, Congress might well pro-
vide that no little fellow should
lose his place because the flood had
made it impossible for him to meet
the payments on principal through



The Cow Educated the Girl

Profit from milk and buttermilk
paid this club member's way
through Tuskegee Institute. Her
neighbors were so impressed with
her success that they followed her
example in care and feed of their
cattle. One of the chief advantages
of the farm demonstrations is that
they are under the eye of the
community and tend to spread.



of the southern banks through federal aid at a time when
England wanted cotton but could not buy it because of
unfavorable exchange rates. He is a man of wide knowledge
of cotton and cotton markets and an ingenious administrator
of federal funds.

As to employment, it is believed that the great amount
of repairs and rebuilding of railroads, highways, bridges,
levees and the like will probably supply work for all who
want it and there will be a heavy demand from the farmers
who must rush in their seed and clean up their places.

In the restoration to homes, the men are started off from
camp two days ahead of their families with instructions as




UP FROM THE BOTTOM LANDS



to how to clean up and whitewash the house, screen the
windows and lime the well or cistern. Each family is given
enough cotton seed to plant the usual acreage, two weeks'



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 82 of 130)