In commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Katrina, New Orleans Center for the Gulf South presents a discussion of Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 with Tulane historian and author Andy Horowitz and The Atlantic senior editor and Floodlines reporter Vann R. Newkirk II.
Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 (Harvard University Press; July 2020) is an essential history of Katrina: an epic of city-making, revealing how engineers and oil executives, politicians and musicians, and neighbors black and white built New Orleans, then watched it sink under the weight of their competing ambitions.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, but the disaster's causes and consequences extend across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. After the city weathered a major hurricane in 1915, its Sewerage and Water Board believed that developers could safely build housing away from the high ground near the Mississippi. And so New Orleans grew in lowlands that relied on significant government subsidies to stay dry. When the flawed levee system surrounding the city and its suburbs failed, these were the neighborhoods that were devastated. The homes that flooded belonged to Louisianans black and white, rich and poor. Katrina's flood washed over the twentieth-century city.
Horowitz investigates the response to the flood, when policymakers reapportioned the challenges the water posed, making it easier for white New Orleanians to return home than it was for African Americans. And he explores how the profits and liabilities created by Louisiana's oil industry have been distributed unevenly among the state's citizens for a century, prompting both dreams of abundance –– and a catastrophic land loss crisis that continues today.
Laying bare the relationship between structural inequality and physical infrastructure –– a relationship that has shaped all American cities –– Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 offers a chilling glimpse of the future disasters we are already creating.
Andy Horowitz is an Assistant Professor of History and the Paul and Debra Gibbons Professor in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University. He is the author of Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 (Harvard University Press, 2020) and the co-editor of Critical Disaster Studies: New Perspectives on Vulnerability, Resilience, and Risk (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming 2021).
Vann R. Newkirk II, 11th Hour Fellow, is the senior editor at The Atlantic, where he covers civil rights, environmental justice, and politics. He has covered the battles for voting rights since the 2013 Shelby County Supreme Court decision, the fate of communities on the front lines of climate change and disasters, and the black vote in the 2018 and 2020 elections. His recent series Floodlines is a concise yet thorough history of Katrina, which examines the human errors that made a manageable Category 3 storm so needlessly brutal.
Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 can be purchased here:
Garden District Book Shop
Access select writing by Vann R. Newkirk II here: theatlantic.com/author/vann-newkirk/.
Floodlines: Vann R. Newkirk II
Access select writing by Andy Horowitz