Panel to Explore Connections between Mississippi River, African-American History and Culture
Several months ago, I wrote about the growing awareness that much of contemporary environmental advocacy does not address issues important to African-Americans, Latinos, and other groups that fall outside the movement’s historical center in the white middle and upper classes. My earlier post suggested some Twitter and blog accounts to follow, and left room for additional reading and analysis on this issue.
I’m pleased to report that the University of Minnesota is beginning to address this gap, starting with a panel discussion “Backwater Blues: Environmental Disaster and African American Experiences.” The discussion will be held on March 31, at 4:00. The location is Room 1210 Heller Hall, on the University’s West Bank campus.
The origination point for the discussion is a book by University of Houston professor Richard Mizelle that examines the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and its impacts on African-American culture. Tens of thousands, if not more, people were displaced, some never to return to their homes. The exodus north contributed to the spread of musical genres such as jazz and blues outside their “cultural hearth” in the lower Delta. The flood and its aftermath shed a distinctive look into broader patterns and institutions of African American life in the early 20th century.
An interdisciplinary panel of scholars from the University of Minnesota will explore the book and its findings, as well as broader questions about the importance of environmental issues broadly construed in understanding the histories of African Americans. It should be a lively, important discussion–save the date, get off work early, and join in!