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Katrina: A History, 1915-2015

Katrina: A History, 1915-2015

by Andy Horowitz


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Winner of the Bancroft Prize
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Book of the Year

“The main thrust of Horowitz’s account is to make us understand Katrina—the civic calamity, not the storm itself—as a consequence of decades of bad decisions by humans, not an unanticipated caprice of nature.”
—Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, but the decisions that caused the disaster can be traced back nearly a century. After the city weathered a major hurricane in 1915, its Sewerage and Water Board believed that developers could safely build housing near the Mississippi, on lowlands that relied on significant government subsidies to stay dry. When the flawed levee system failed, these were the neighborhoods that were devastated.

The flood line tells one important story about Katrina, but it is not the only story that matters. Andy Horowitz investigates the response to the flood, when policymakers made it easier for white New Orleanians to return home than for African Americans. He explores how the profits and liabilities created by Louisiana’s oil industry have been distributed unevenly, prompting dreams of abundance and a catastrophic land loss crisis that continues today.

“Masterful…Disasters have the power to reveal who we are, what we value, what we’re willing—and unwilling—to protect.”
New York Review of Books

“If you want to read only one book to better understand why people in positions of power in government and industry do so little to address climate change, even with wildfires burning and ice caps melting and extinctions becoming a daily occurrence, this is the one.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674271074
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 05/03/2022
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 261,716
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Andy Horowitz is Associate Professor of History at Tulane University. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Southern History, Southern Cultures, Historical Reflections, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I

1 How to Sink New Orleans: Controlling Floods, Oil, and States' Rights, 1927-1965 19

2 Help!: Hurricane Betsy and the Politics of Disaster in the Lower Ninth Ward, 1965-1967 44

3 The New New Orleans: Louisiana Grows and Shrinks, 1967-2005 69

Part II

4 Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?: Hurricane Katrina, August-September 2005 115

5 Rebuilding the Land of Dreams: 2005-2075 138

Epilogue: The End of Empire, Louisiana 181

Notes 199

Acknowledgments 265

Index 269

Illustrations follow page 97

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