On April 21, 1927, a district official wired a brief message to the head of the Army Corps of Engineers:
“Levee broke at ferry landing Mounds, Mississippi, eight a.m. Crevasse will overflow entire Mississippi Delta.”
Two thousand men had worked through the night, piling sandbags even as water began to rush over the levee. Many African American laborers worked at gunpoint, with guards threatening to shoot if they tried to flee.
The river broke through with tremendous force, knocking down buildings, uprooting trees, washing workers away. The lower Delta became a giant lake covering more than ten million acres. Even seventy-five miles from the break, Yazoo City was under ten feet of water.
We will never know how many drowned or died of exposure on rooftops or clinging to tree limbs. We do know that hundreds of thousands of Mississippians lost all they had.
For more interesting facts about Mississippi's 200-year history, watch a new interstitial each week of 2017 with Mississippi: A Thread Through Time on MPB Television.