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supply of food for itself and feed for livestock, farm im-
plements for use in planting, necessary livestock (usually a
mule) and poultry, simple household furniture. The Red
Cross will also provide new buildings or repairs to the
point of sanitary shelter, and those who are without a roof
are given the tents and bedding they have used in camp.
Once home, they are urged to take stock of their needs and
to report at once to the County Committee.

FROM that time on the Red Cross is out of it as the
major agent of relief. But the County Committee has the
advice of a Red Cross representative and its disbursements,
which come from the relief fund, must be approved by the
Red Cross. The whole plan for the County Committee,
from methods of getting at the needs of its people to final
audit of accounts, has been worked out with an eye to
making sure that needs are met but that funds are not
wasted. Thus it is pointed out that there will be many
border-line cases where a family's needs can be met in part
by credit and in part by relief, thereby stretching the fund
without causing suffering. The Red Cross will install in
each County Committee an experienced adviser, probably a
case-worker, and the local authorities and the Red Cross
nurses will supply the health advice. Should the plan work
through as it is drafted, and as it has already been set up
in some districts, the whole relief of the Mississippi flood
of 1927 will have been administered practically without
case-work in the usual sense. Mr. Fieser pointed out that
the Florida hurricane required 319 case-workers for 25,000
cases; to apply the same ratio to the Delta with its cases
running up to 125,000 families would have stripped the
country of its entire force of about 1,500 case-workers.
Moreover, in a scattered rural population able to go back
to its usual work in four to six weeks and still able to harvest
a crop this year, the case-workers are not needed.

More lately Mr. Hoover has appointed an advisory
committee of representative colored citizens with R. R.
Moton of Tuskegee as chairman to help in the reconstruc-
tion work. Appointment of the committee was no doubt
due in part to a genuine desire on the part of the natural
engineers in the relief and rehabilitation work, and of
forward-looking Southerners, to secure skilled advice on
reconstruction among Negroes of leading members of their
race. But whatever these intentions may have been, adverse
local sentiment, apparently, had delayed action and it did
not come until after the publication of interviews with
Walter White, of the National Association for the Advance-
ment of Colored People, telling of discriminations against
Negro refugees in some of the camps and of the use of the
camp machinery by the National Guard to make sure that
Negro tenants and laborers were returned to the plantations
from which they had come regardless of their own wishes.
It came, also, long after the earlier offer of Eugene Kinckle
Jones, of the National Urban League, to cooperate in the
relief work. After, also, many telegrams had been sent to
Mr. Hoover by social workers, East and West, protesting
that in a great relief operation among Negroes their own
organizations and social workers should not be barred.

If the rehabilitation plan should go through perfectly it
will, by and large, put the flood victims back where they
were when the levees broke. That is, the large planters will

plant and harvest a crop and, as usual, they will live on
credit which the banks advance them against that crop;
the small farmers will plant and harvest a crop and, as
usual, they will live on credit advanced by the banks or by
the special credit corporations against that crop ; the tenant
farmers will do precisely the same, with help from the Red
Cross, the credit corporations and from their landlords.
Everybody will be exactly where he was before in earning a
living and in most other ways except for the loss of de-
structible but not absolutely necessary property furniture,
bedding, small livestock, fences, bicycles, dolls, hencoops,
banjos, favorite pipes, strawberry plants, all the perennials
everything that makes life pleasant once it has been saved.

And except that the small land-owning farmers, who are
the hope of the South, are badly hit. The relief fund re-
lieves their needs; it does not make good their losses. A
mule, a rooster and two hens, a few tools and simple house-
hold furniture are a long way short of .two mules, a flock
of hens, some hogs, a variety of tools, your own tested seed
and the slow accumulations of years in the way of furniture,
fruit trees, flowers, outbuildings, the flapping remains of a
1919 Ford, and the like. To such families, most of them
paying for their farms a bit at a time, on top of a year
when cotton had brought only what it had cost to produce,
the flood came as a crushing blow. If the County Com-
mittees do their best, they can barely be kept out ol

For all of this, rescue, exile and rehabilitation, there is a
fund of something over thirty million dollars sixteen
millions in the relief fund, about five millions in the services
and materials supplied by government departments, aboul
ten millions in the credits. When this is spent and the
people are back as nearly as it will put them where they
were, the Mississippi Flood Committee will have done its
work and will go out of business. Mr. Hoover does nol
see that it can go further. To do more than that, he told
me, was not the province of the committee.

I asked him how the people of the country could take a
hand in raising the level of life in the Delta, just as thej
had contributed to save life and ward off disease during
the flood. Suppose, I suggested, Congress should appropriat*
fifty million dollars how would he use it?

" I 'O go beyond what we are doing in our present re
JL construction plans would mean that we were trying t(
take over the whole problem of the Delta," he said. "I d(
not see how I or the committee could do it or should do it
The South is poor, but it is making amazing progress
The first great need is for Negro education. The seconc
is for stabilization of its agriculture and markets. And th<
third is _for some plan of freehold land-ownership."

When Congress meets in December, or perhaps earlier
flood control will be one of the first questions taken up
and there is some chance that reconstruction will come u]
as well. With the Flood Committee disbanded and will
the Red Cross committed to a policy of relieving distres:
but not making good losses, new machinery would have t<
be set up to distribute any appropriation made for thi
purpose. But it might be done by a large application of th<
principle of mutual insurance, on the ground that the peopli
of the Delta are the innocent victims of floods which arisi
elsewhere and are, at least in part, due to the indiffereno
of the country as a whole and our neglect of the plaii
warnings of conservationists. If we paid the South :



thumping big indemnity it might sharpen our appreciation
the fact that the leaky roof must be mended before the
rain comes. The principle has been established in New
Orleans where the artificial break in a levee to save the
:ity had to be accompanied by a guarantee to make good
ill losses resulting from it not the mere relieving of the
distress of the artificially flooded people. Yet their case was
essentially like that of all the flooded districts: no amount
ii local levee-building in the South can prevent floods; no
Louisiana farmer can keep his own place dry. It is clearly
a national problem. Congress
will undoubtedly recognize
lood prevention as a national
problem. There is an equally
good case for making good
k>od losses. They can not be
insured against like losses by
fire, and the result is that the
man least able to stand it, the
small farmer who is slowly
)uying his twenty acres, must
pay. With a surplus in the
United States Treasury of six
lundred millions there seems
to be no need to hold back for
the sake of economy. The As an educator as well as
question is not only of how nurse is worth

much but how to guard it so

:hat we may all help without retarding the resurrection of
ocal forces how to provide help in services as well as

Mr. Hoover's idea that the first great need of the South
s Negro education has, of course, been the idea of forward-
ooking men, both North and South. But how to do it,
n a country of simple farmers, who grow only one crop,
vho do not even grow their own food, who are universally
n debt and who do not read and write. Schoolhouses and
igricultural colleges will not do unless we are content to
kip the present generation and base all our hopes on the
:hildren. To do that, to let a whole generation slide along
n its present environment, after the disruptive effects of
he war, the demands of northern industry and the flood,
s to invite a northern migration of all the best Negro stock
if the Delta. The Negro men are good farmers; they take
o farming naturally. How can they be made self-supporting
:ven in bad cotton years, and self-respecting? Is there not

more natural tie than debts and fear of the landlord ?

Consider that here is a family which owns nothing beyond
he literal clothes on its back, often without shoes; no fur-
liture nor tools ; a family which does not attempt nor know
tow to grow its own food. Where the adults cannot read.
Adhere the women cannot sew. Where the whole family

engaged in growing cotton, which covers its little place
lean up to the house.

To reach such a family with the rudiments of education,
vhich obviously must be outside of walls and of books,
here is at present one organization which is adequate in
rganization and personnel and purpose the demonstration
gents employed jointly by the Extension Division of the
ederal Department of Agriculture and the states or coun-
ies. They operate in every rural district of the United
tales. They are flexible enough to turn from expert advice
n grain in the Northwest, on fruit in California, on pure-
red cattle in New York valleys, on potatoes in Maine, to

the simple needs of the little fellow in Sunflower county
in the Delta.

An agent, usually a Negro, a graduate of Tuskegee or
Hampton or the state agricultural college, drives his Ford
up to Farmer Jones' place and begins to talk to him about
the bedraggled looking old cow tied in the fence-corner to
keep her out of the cotton. He does not advise buying fancy
stock or tell him what might be done in four or five years
by better sires. He gets right down to this farm and this
cow. Will Jones be willing to feed the old Sue cow exactly

as the agent recommends for
so many weeks if she will give
him more milk? Jones is a
dumb fellow. But he is also
a good-natured fellow and he
agrees to do it. As the exper-
iment goes on, he is impressed
with the increasing weight of
his milk-pail. At the end of
it the miracle has happened
old Sue is giving 50 per cent
more milk.

Will Farmer Jones be will-
ing to tell his neighbors about
it ? He certainly will he is the
a health uorfcer, a R(d Cross proudest man in the county.
her weight in gold The demonstration agent

brings in all the neighboring

farmers and Jones himself tells them just what he has done
and the results, not quoting figures on the increase in milk
and butter fat but pointing out on the milk-pail how the
foaming crest rose from week to week. The agent tells just
what the ration is. He invites the others to go and do
likewise and they do. The imitativeness of the Negro is
a powerful factor, making him an easier pupil to deal with
than the white farmer of similar status. This is the
demonstration ; and this is education, though the agent may
be the only man present who can read a book or a news-
paper. Other demonstrations deal with hogs, with corn,
with crop rotation, with the quick-growing cotton that
ripens before the boll weevil does.

The home demonstration agent, working under the same
auspices, is a Negro woman, who has the great prestige of
having gone to college. She demonstrates chickens, vege-
tables, fruits- how to grow and cook them and to can the
surplus. She starts a sewing club and finds, perhaps, that
almost none of her class know how to use a needle. They
start with a very simple undergarment, work at it for weeks,
or even months. Follow it with an apron. Go on, one step
at a time, to a dress.

NOTHING has been said about better clothes or what
can be done a year or two from now. But presently
there is a meeting of the club at which the members appear
triumphantly in dresses they have made themselves.. All
the time there has been talk of various farm problems how
to build a sanitary privy, why milk should be brought to
a boil before the children drink it, how mosquito netting
will cut down the amount of chills and fever, why you
should sleep with the window open.

The grand finale of a series of demonstrations is the trip
of the prize-winner to the agricultural college where he and
his wife spend four days with men and women from all
over the state, hearing of what others have done, bragging



of their own successes, seeing the marvels that can be
wrought under the ideal conditions of the state farm.

Here the federal government is taking a definite part in
carrying out some of the purposes of the first farmers'
conference at Tuskegee in 1892: "That as far as possible
we aim to raise at home our own meat and bread ; that we
make every sacrifice and practice every form of economy
that we may purchase land and free ourselves from our
burdensome habit of living in debt." It proceeds on the
theory of education laid down by Seaman A. Knapp, who
started the work in the South, with instructions to his
agents not to go before people with elaborate programs.
He said to them: "The average man, like the crow, cannot
count more than three. Do the next thing."

The demonstrations proceed in an orderly sequence from
better food and food animals during the growing season to
methods of preserving the surplus for the winter or for
sale ; from a simple undergarment to a dress ; from a
sanitary home to a more beautiful one, with fruit trees and
ornamental shrubs ; from the value of whitewash as a
protection against disease to the value of paint in making
pleasant and satisfying surroundings. Everywhere among
whites and Negroes in all climates it tends to break the
tyranny of single-crop agriculture with its waves of
alternate good times and bad. You can't eat cotton and
there are years when you can't sell it for enough to buy a
year's supply of food. And there is also the spectacle, which
particularly tries the soul of Ola Powell Malcomb, chief
of the demonstration agents, of poor folk in a country where
delicious figs grow wild, buying on credit California
peaches in expensive cans.

In its first decade the extension work among Negroes had
made almost precisely the same progress as the first ten
years of the earlier work among white farmers. It has raised
the standard of living and of general well-being among
great numbers of people. Here is adult education that

The extension work among the people of the Delta should
be greatly increased. Under the terms of the Smith-Lever
act, the government makes an appropriation of ten thousand
dollars a year to each state and an additional amount which
for several years has run up to $5,400,000 to be divided
among the states on the ratio of their rural population to
the total rural population of the country. The states, or
counties or organizations
within them, must match
the amount dollar for
dollar. As a matter of
fact, C. W. Warburton,
director of the Extension
Service, estimates that
the states and counties
spend several times as
much as the Department
of A g-r i c u 1 1 u re. All
through the South, and
in other parts of the
country too, there are
counties asking for
agents who must wait,
as the federal fund has
been entirely allocated.
Here is a place where
federal money might

well be put out in a tested task of reconstruction.
To rebuild the Delta through helping its inhabitants to
self-support, the government might lay aside for a time its
principle of dividing federal grants exactly by population
and make a special appropriation to be spent where there
is greatest need. The total amount of federal money spent
in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana under the Smith-
Lever act is under a half million dollars a year. To double
or treble that would make a small item at Washington.

At the bottom of the Delta's troubles is the fact that the
United States, producing about two-thirds of the world's
cotton, has in recent years had to take over command of
the world's cotton market which formerly centered in Liver-
pool and for which we have not yet developed a technique
of handling. The great American formula of a protective
tariff does not hold here, for it is a question of exporting.
In recent years cotton has fluctuated from 40 cents to 10
cents a pound at the farm when, according to Mr. Meyer's
figures, it cannot normally be grown at a profit for less
than 13 to 17 cents. Forty-cent cotton led inevitably to
great plantings all over the world, most immediately in
western Texas and Oklahoma, on land so new that
fertilizer is not yet needed and on plantations so large that
two-mule cultivation and "sledding" reduce the cost far
under that of the hand-grown and hand-picked long staple
of the Delta. Once the sledding-picker is improved to the
point where it can do a clean job, or the cotton-gin is
improved to the point where it will take out all of the stems
and leaves as well as the seed, the patient black fingers that
have picked cotton since cotton was first picked will be out
of their job. There are doubters who believe this will never
be accomplished. Yet, in every other form of industry the
machine has, in the long run, displaced the hand-worker.
That is probably the place to look for the major part of
the reduction of cost which is said to be the salvation of the
cotton South and not the other method put once more to
me by a New York banker. The South cannot control the
price of cotton, he said, therefore it must reduce the cost
of production; "the way to reduce the cost of production
is to reduce the labor cost, and the way to reduce the labor
cost is to stop educating the niggers."

Farm relief is in the air. Congress is bound to do some-
thing. The best place to begin is at the bottom in the
Delta. It calls for the active help of every agency inter-
ested in Negroes, in edu-
cation, in health, in ru-
ral life. Through some
union of good will and
good sense we must set
to it that the small cot-
ton farmer and the farm-
hand, Negroes, peons
in fact if not at law,
shall not continue in
ignorance, in poverty,
in ill-health to com-
pete bare-handed in the
world's market against
migrant Mexicans in
Texas and Oklahoma,
Indians in Brazil and
Peru, fellaheen in Egypt
and the untouchables of

Prevention First


HE Mississippi flood is a man-made disaster.
I do not forget that without an excessive
rainfall it could not have happened. But
neither does a great forest fire, set by a
casual match, happen without an excessive
lack of rainfall. In both cases men are

A river is a great natural balance sheet. It is the result

if innumerable natural forces and phenomena the rain,

:he earth, gravity, erosion, and many another. Where the

river flows and how it flows represents a vast and beautiful

natural equilibrium established among them all. When

nen destroy that equilibrium, inevitably they pay the price.
We Americans have been busy ever since \ve landed in

America arranging things so that the price to be paid would

be heavy. We have cut and

burned the forests and have not

replaced them. We have de-
stroyed the natural reservoirs of

the swamps. We have every-
where helped the water to run

off quickly. We have confined

the beds of streams between

levees, or, as at Pittsburgh, we

have used them as dumping

grounds until the restriction of

the channel became one of the

principal causes of serious floods.

In a word, we have done practi-
cally everything we could to

force the Mississippi to make us

trouble, and nothing effective to

prevent floods.

In dealing with this greatest

natural calamity in the history

of the United States, we must,

if we are wise, give as much

attention to what men have done

to the Mississippi as to what

the Mississippi has done to men.

What is wrong, and what is the

remedy ?

I heard Dwight F. Davis,

secretary of war, at the recent

flood control meeting at Chica-
go, point out with clearness and

cogency that we must not act too

hastily with regard to the Mis-
sissippi that what we need first

of all is a plan. He assumed

that the Corps of Engineers of

the United States Army would

make that plan. We have been

dealing with the Mississippi

River for half a century, but,

The Essential Facts as Pinchot
Sees Them

A river is a unit from its source to its
mouth, and must be handled as such.
What happens at the headwaters of a
stream affects its whole flow. Water from
New York and Pennsylvania, water from
Colorado and Montana, water from Min-
nesota and from Canada, has helped to
break crevasses in the levees in Arkansas
and Mississippi and to flood the rich
lands of the Sugar Bowl of Louisiana.

This is a national problem. Two-thirds
of our states and half of our area are con-

The floods are getting worse instead of
better. Nearly everything that men have
done in the valley of the Father of
Waters, including the "levees only" pro-
gram of the engineers, has served to ag-
gravate a continuous series of destructive
floods. The last and greatest of them
we have just seen.

Levees are absolutely indispensable.
But the policy of "levees only" is suicide.
Every practicable means, device, and
method of stream control must be util-
ized, and none neglected.

Prevention is better than cure, and
worth sixteen times as much. That way
safety lies.

Finally, government storage reservoirs,
developing electricity to be sold by the
government for distribution by others,
will pay the bill.


when a great emergency arises on that river, Secretary Davis
tells the country it must prepare a plan. That would not
be necessary if it had a plan now. The worst enemy of
the Corps could not formulate a more destructive charge
against its efficiency in the regulation of the Mississippi.
Unless my dates are wrong, the Corps of Engineers of the
United States Army has had charge of the river since 1879-
I do not forget that the Mississippi River Commission is
nominally in charge. But that commission is mainly com-
posed of and entirely dominated by the Army engineers.
From 1879 to 1927 is forty-eight years. Forty-eight years
is practically half a century. At the end of that half
century of control work by the Army engineers comes the
worst and most costly flood that we know anything about.
And more than that, the Corps of Engineers, after half

a century of active and responsi-
ble dealing with the river, does
not know what to do next is
without a plan for its control.
How is it that it has no plan ?
It is a cardinal principle of
the engineers that the Corps must
never be wrong, no matter what
the facts. The Army engineers
long ago took the position that
levees, and levees only, were
needed to control the floods of
the Father of Waters, and have
stuck to that opinion in spite of
one demonstration after another,
by one flood after another, that
they were wrong. In 1912, and,
to go back no further, in 1922,
the Mississippi furnished conclu-
sive proof that the "levees only"
theory was utterly untenable.
But it took a disaster that cost
a billion dollars and made three-
quarters of a million people
homeless to shake the conviction
of the Army engineers that what
they had once said was so must
always be so in spite of hell and
high water.

The Corps has been shaken,
but not very much. Its present
position is that spillways shall
now be added to levees, and that
to consider any method of river
regulation in addition to these
two is evidence of moral turpi-

A lot of the rest of us, how-
ever, believe not only in levees
and spillways but in forests and





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Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 83 of 130)