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Fatal Flood

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Primary Sources: Robert Moton's First Report

The Colored Advisory Commission's first report, filed two months after the disaster, offered numerous suggestions for improving conditions for African Americans living in refugee camps. Disappointingly, these suggestions were never implemented, as the commission's December follow-up report to Hoover would reveal.

Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute
Founded by Booker T. Washington
For the Training of Colored Young Men and Women
Office of the Principal
Tuskegee Institute, Alabama

June 13, 1927
Honorable Herbert Hoover, Chairman,
The President's Mississippi Flood Committee,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir:

I am respectfully submitting the findings and recommendations of the Colored Advisory Commission on the Mississippi Flood disaster, which met with you last Saturday in Baton Rouge. You suggested in this meeting that we transmit this report to you and to the Red Cross Headquarters in New Orleans. The recommendations are as follows:

1. That recreational activities be established as soon as possible in the Negro refugee camps at Greenville, Vicksburg, Monroe, Delhi, Sicily Island, and Crowley.

2. (a) That knives, forks, and spoons be supplied for use in the cafeteria service at Opelousas, Monroe , and Delhi.

(b) That cafeteria service be installed at Sicily Island.

(c) That a screened structure with tables and seats be erected for the serving of food at Greenville, Vicksburg, and Natchez.

3. That as far as possible the Negro refugee camps be relieved of armed white guardsmen except those who are stationed at the entrances to the camps.

4. That the 1800 Negro refugees in camp at Opelousas be divided and transferred to Crowley and Lafayette. Both of these camps have a large number of unoccupied tents. We make this recommendation because the Negro camp at Opelousas is located in a very low, damp, marshy place, and when it rains the water comes up into some of the tents. The Commission found a great deal of restlessness at Opelousas because of the presence of a large number of armed white guardsmen.

5. That cots be supplied to Negro refugees in all the camps. Our investigation showed that cots had not been supplied to Negro refugees in any of the fourteen camps visited except at Baton Rouge.

6. That steps be taken at once to improve the system of the distribution of clothing to Negro refugees. In some camps it was reported that white refugees have the opportunity to select from the clothing sent for the Red Cross, first, and that what is left is turned over to the Negroes. In other camps visited by the Commission, the method of distribution lacked system causing a great amount of confusion and unpleasantness.

7. That local Colored Advisory Committees be associated with local Red Cross chapters and other officials during the second and third stages of relief. Such committees can assist in the camp activities of Negro refugees as well as in the program of rehabilitation. 8.That the Red Cross borrow at once trained Negro social workers and health nurses to go into the camps for the purpose of organizing mothers' meetings, men's meetings, and conducting clinics -- health, dental, and baby. With many hundreds of these farm workers gathered together as they are in the camps there is an unusual opportunity to bring them a message of health and better home life. The chairman of your Colored Advisory Commission will be pleased to cooperate with the Red Cross officials in arranging the loan of such trained workers for the next two or three weeks.

9. That at least two colored men in the state of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana with sufficient authority from the Flood Relief Committee to do their work unhampered be delegated to visit the camps for the purpose of giving detailed information and answering questions concerning that reconstruction work. It would greatly expedite the work of such representatives if they could be supplied with placards and circulars containing brief and simple statements of the details of reconstruction of the Red Cross program. These matters, in our opinion, require immediate attention, so we are presenting them to you in the form of a preliminary report. The full reports of the various sub-committees of the Commission are now being assembled and edited. We hope to have this work completed within the next few days.

An important potential agency for reaching Negro exiles and urging them to remain in the camps until their communities have been put into livable condition is the Negro industrial insurance companies and the Negro fraternal organizations. We are arranging to have this matter presented to a group of Negro insurance and fraternal leaders in Louisiana and will advise you in a later communication what success we have had with the project.

I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr. Fieser at the New Orleans office with the hope that it would be handled in his absence by Mr. Baker.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert R. Morton
Colored Advisory Commission

Source: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Service

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