Each time the Mississippi River flooded, thousands lost their lives and homes. So when the government decided to build levees, there was one group of people they wanted to use to make their plans a reality.
Black men. Our people were hired to work during the months they weren’t getting robbed by white landowners as sharecroppers.
At first, levee work seemed like a good way to get out of land debt. But then reality set in.
Work on the levee was oppressive. The white men who managed the workers not only held the men at gunpoint and forced them to work, but sometimes they starved them, even after a long day of hard labor! So our people did something incredible to take back emotional control of their circumstances.
They told stories – about nights of partying, wild sex, violence, and anything else that went against the expectations white managers wanted them to adhere to. The stories spread like wildfire.
Were the stories true? It’s not clear – but it sent a message. They were HUMAN BEINGS who deserved to let loose once in a while.
Black workers seeking to make more money endured awful conditions and white oppression. Their stories of legendary partying were in defiance of a system that sought to control Black bodies. We must always remember that it’s how we define OURSELVES that matters.