It wasn't just a white person's flood

We may not like to think about it, but segregation was the norm in Louisville in the 1930s. And so it follows that, during the 1937 Flood, African-Americans had their own designated places to be sheltered and fed.

Soon, the generation that lived through the Great Flood of 1937 will no longer be here to tell us their stories. One of the reasons I wrote A Winter's Flood was to preserve a glimpse of life in Louisville during that time. But as I was writing Miranda's story, I realized that a person of African-American heritage might wonder where their family fit into the historic flood.

My guess is that their family's story was similar to most. They were driven from their homes by the rising river. They found shelter. They lined up for food. Only it would have been done separately.

Segregation in 1937 is something we can't change. But we can take a look back to see how far we've come. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth kept meticulous records of the daily activities at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital. The following entries, written during the flood, illustrate how things used to be.

"A Negro relief center and hospital was established in the office of the Louisville Chair and Furniture Company, just back of the hospital. These people were furnished with food, water, and medical care by the hospital (St. Mary's). Doctors and nurses made regular visits, day and night. Some forty people were housed there."

"Mrs. Elizabeth Landrum Davis, an emergency appendectomy, was one of the few (patients) who enjoyed a private room (at St. Mary's)... This perhaps was the first operation performed on a Negro at St. Mary's. At the time there was no way of reaching the Red Cross Hospital."


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