The winds of Hurricane Katrina blew the cover off issues of race and poverty along the Gulf Coast, and the fallout started a national conversation about those subjects.
The natural disaster forced thousands of people from the land they called home to other parts of the country, including West Virginia. Many have speculated that preparations for such a catastrophic storm and the evacuation plan for the city were inadequate, in part, because the people affected most were predominately black and poor.
Historically, marginalized groups of people have been forced to leave their homes and migrate to other parts of the country. The European founders of the United States claimed the lands of Native Americans and forced them onto reservations. Former slaves, freed after the Civil War, moved North in search of new lives, a diaspora repeated decades later in the Jim Crow-era migration of African Americans to the industrial centers of the Northeast. And during World War II, Japanese Americans lost their homes when the U.S. government put them in internment camps because of the fear caused by Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. During the Depression of the 1930s, impoverished and predominately white Southern sharecroppers and tenant farmer families displaced by landowners and failed agricultural practices formed the great westward migration of the Dust Bowl.
The following links help put the displacement of New Orleans residents in a broader framework. They are offered to extend the discussion about the migration of marginalized groups past and present.
Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture
The American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl
Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin
Migrant Worker Collection
EDSITEment – Dust Bowl Lesson Plan
Drought in the Dust Bowl Years
Trail of Tears: Cherokee Indians forcibly removed from North Georgia
Trail of Tears Commemorative Park
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail