Mississippi River BasinExpedition

Yazoo-Mississippi Delta ’08 Expedition

Wife of Mississippi cotton sharecropper in front of their cabin in 1937. Photo: Dorothea Lange for FSA.

This expedition will take place February 17–25, 2008. NWNL Director Alison Jones will stay in a Clarksdale, Mississippi, restored cotton plantation’s “shotgun shack.” The purpose of this expedition will be to combine video with still photography. Documentation will focus on 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 will tell a NWNL story of “No Water No Cotton.” Interviews will be sought with local historians, blues musicians, former cotton plantation owners, as well as the Levee Board. The latter is a taxing authority that balances input from US Army Corps of Engineers and environmentalists. These interviews will explore the complex tale of flood control; overuse of fertilizers; and detergents and pesticides polluting the water; and the change of swamp land to cotton fields. The result of this change in land use is reported to have lowered water tables, albeit gradually, due the impact of Mississippi’s water laws.