When They Blew the LeveeRace, Politics, and Community in Pinhook, Missouri

When They Blew the LeveeRace, Politics, and Community in Pinhook, Missouri

David Todd Lawrence and Elaine J. Lawless

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496817730

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

In this ethnography of a destroyed town in southern Missouri’s Bootheel region, authors David Todd Lawrence and Elaine J. Lawless examine two conflicting narratives about the flood of 2011—one promoted by the Corps of Engineers that boasts the success of the levee breach and the flood diversion, and the other gleaned from oral narratives collected from the displaced Pinhook residents, stories that reveal a lack of concern on the part of the government for the destruction of their town. Receiving inadequate warning and no evacuation assistance during the breach, residents lost everything. Many still seek restitution and funding for relocation and reconstruction of their town. The authors’ research traces a long history of discrimination and neglect of the rights of the Pinhook community, beginning with migration from the Deep South to the southern-most counties in Missouri, through purchasing and farming the land, up to the Birds Point levee breach. Their stories relate what it has been like for the former residents of this stable African American town to be displaced dispersed in other small towns, living with relatives and friends while trying to negotiate the bureaucracy surrounding Federal Emergency Management Agency and State Emergency Management Agency assistance. Ultimately, the stories of displaced citizens of Pinhook reveal a strong African American community, whose bonds were developed over time and through shared traditions, bonds that will persist even if the town is never rebuilt.