THE DELTA 329 Detroit, the place where C. L. became a prominent African American minister and Aretha started on her path to stardom. Although the migration of African Americans to Northern cities helped bring them to a national market, blues and gospel both had their roots in African American culture and the experiences in the Delta. Great Migration By the time of World War I, with increasing job opportunities and the promise of a new life, thousands of Delta African Americans hopped aboard trains, made their way north, and did not come back. The Great Migration of African Americans to Northern cities went, for the most part, unabated from the 1910s through the 1950s. The out- migration of African Americans from the Delta and throughout the entire state caused a decline in the overall African American population in Mississippi. In the early twentieth century, African Americans made up a majority of the Mississippi population and were large majorities in Delta counties. By the 1960s, thanks to the Great Migration and the mechanization of agriculture, the African American exodus made whites the new majority in Mississippi. This had not been the case since before the cotton boom and slavery expansion of the 1830s and 1840s. Another contributing factor to the outflow was the Great Flood of 1927. Despite the decades-long efforts to build protective levees for the Delta, flooding continued to make life hard for all Delta residents well into the twentieth century. Nothing, though, matched events in the spring and summer months of 1927. With persistent downpours and water levels soaring along the Mississippi River, the Mounds Landing levee just north of Greenville collapsed on April 21. Greenville, then a city of nearly 15,000, became inundated with floodwaters. In the higher elevations across town, a few feet of water caused small damage compared to the flooding that tore through lower-lying areas. Waters reached upwards of ten feet in some areas and did not subside for another several months. Writer William Alexander Percy led the local relief effort in Greenville. The Flood of 1927 inflicted enormous human and physical damage. In the Mississippi Delta alone, more than 40,000 homes were flooded. Nearly 80,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed. Approximately 300,000 head of livestock were killed. In the floodplain of the Delta, the human death toll was in the range of 1,000 people. Although the Flood of 1927 resulted in more comprehensive and efficient levee-building efforts at the federal level, the horrors of this disaster reverberated in the Delta for many years to come. The scenes of death and despair made it clear that the great and powerful river could be just as vengeful as it was rewarding. Despite the efforts of white leaders, many African Americans in the Delta, Greenville in particular, did not stick around once the floodwaters receded. Like many of their counterparts in the Delta, a growing number of African American residents in Greenville packed up and set their sights northward for better opportunities. The Great Depression and War A national and global economic crisis next struck the Delta. Stock market failures, bank closures, declining foreign trade, and massive unemployment haunted the nation’s economy during the years of the Great Depression. Declining worldwide demand for cotton, along with rampant overplanting, took prices to unfathomable lows. The plunging of cotton prices down to ten cents a pound by 1931 put on edge the region’s planters, merchants, and laborers. The Depression resulted in stockpiles of cotton and starvation throughout the Delta. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932 in the depths of the Depression and promised what he called a “New Deal” for the American people. Upon taking office, Roosevelt took on the agricultural crisis affecting the country, particularly in the South and Midwest. Low agricultural prices burdened these farm regions and led to calls for change in federal agricultural policy. The Congress responded with the passage of the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). Under the AAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented a series of policies reducing the amount of farm acreage in production. The AAA incentivized landowners to decrease their overall output by providing subsidies in the form of checks The New Deal touched the lives of Delta residents in other ways. Federal surplus commodity programs helped feed poor Deltans during the Great Depression and for years after.