YAZOO-MISSISSIPPI DELTA ’08 — FIELD REPORT
Wife of Mississippi cotton sharecropper in front of their cabin in 1937. Photo: Dorothea Lange for FSA.
The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta ’08 Expedition took place between February 17–25. NWNL Director Alison Jones was based in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in a restored cotton plantation’s “shotgun shack.” The purpose of this expedition was to use video and still photography to document the impact of the cotton industry and levees on the triangle of delta land created at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. Before the Civil War, when the local mantra was “Cotton is King,” this alluvial floodplain region was referred to as “The Amazon of North America.”
The imagery of cypress swamps, levees and agricultural irrigation ditches created during this expedition tells a NWNL story of “No Water No Cotton.” Interviews were taped with local historians, blues musicians, former cotton plantation owners and the Levee Board, a taxing authority balancing input from US Army Corps of Engineers and environmentalists. These interviews weave a complex tale of the need for flood control; overuse of fertilizers and detergents mixed with pesticides polluting the water; and the change of land cover from swamp land to cotton fields resulting in lowered water tables, albeit gradual, due the effect of Mississippi water laws.
(NB: More detailed notes will be posted once interviews are transcribed.)