cover image Mississippi and the Great Depression

Mississippi and the Great Depression

Richelle Putnam. The History Press, $21.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-4671-1876-7

In this worthy illustrated history, Putnam (The Inspiring Life of Eudora Welty) narrates the hardscrabble Great Depression years in Mississippi, beginning with the Great Flood of 1927 and ending with WWII, accompanied by a trove of photographs recording daily life and special events. As Putnam recounts, the white, black, Choctaw, and Chinese people who lived in the Deep Southern state experienced significant hardship on top of pre-existing natural disasters (such as flooding, multiyear droughts) and manmade crises (extensive deforestation). She excerpts the pleading letters Mississippians of all economic classes wrote to their congressman, William H. Colmer, about the extreme lack of education and jobs. Putnam shows that the state proved ripe for Roosevelt’s then-controversial New Deal programs; the Tennessee Valley Authority, Civilian Conservation Corps, and National Industrial Recovery Association kept residents from starving. The photos reveal not only deprivation but also a rich culture influenced by the state’s Great Depression-era writers Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Walker Percy and legendary musician Robert Johnson. Ideal for readers fascinated by the idea of the New South, Putnam’s spare account of a difficult era provides insight into modern Mississippi’s struggle to overcome an impoverished past with grit and a remarkable cultural legacy. (BookLife)