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Tricentennial Reading List with Larry Powell (Part 5)

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Welcome to The Tricentennial Reading List. Today, Susan Larson continues her look at 300 great New Orleans books, in part five of her conversation with professor emeritus of history at Tulane University, Larry Powell.

  • DeLesseps S. Morrison and the Image of Reform: New Orleans Politics, 1945-1961, by Ed Haas
  • Silk Stockings and Ballot Boxes, Women and Politics in New Orleans, 1920-1963, by Pamela Tyler
  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed Americaby John Barry
  • New Orleans after the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Societyby Kent Germany
  • Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization, edited by Arnold M. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon

 

Transcript
Susan Larson: One book that was important to you was DeLesseps S. Morrison and the Image of Reform: New Orleans Politics, 1945-1961, by Ed Haas.

Larry Powell: Well, it fills a real gap in our knowledge of that period after World War II until, basically, the Civil Rights Revolution. He was part of it. He was going to try out for this good government mayor and the compromises he had to make. Ed Haas, he was really workman-like and indispensable book. I think if anybody's interested in that period, you cannot overlook that book. That's one you should put on your reading list.

Susan: Another one that covers a longer time period is Silk Stockings and Ballot Boxes, Women and Politics in New Orleans, 1920-1963, by Pamela Tyler.

Larry: The books overlap, because she talks about the women activists, usually from the Garden District and from uptown. They did a lot of good things. She's very mindful of some of their conservative limitations on race and class. She's eminently fair. There's just some great stuff in there. It's another indispensable book.

[‘New Orleans Under Water (Nueva Orleans Bajo Agua)’ by Jane Bunnett]

Susan: One of the most important books it seems to me has been, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John Barry.

Larry: Barry's book is a must-read. [chuckles] No book has written about the river as almost an anthropological character in history with all these-- What's happening beneath the surface is even more complicated and frightening than what's happening above it. In a sense, it's a metaphor almost for New Orleans. What he did, I think was to pull back the curtain and let you see who really ran the place and what their values were at the time.

Susan: We learned a lot about ourselves from that book. Then it had a second best-selling life after Katrina. It came back. That's on the New York Bestseller.

Larry: It's such a great read.

[‘Out of this World’ by John Coltrane]

Susan: Another book from the 20th century is New Orleans After the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society, by Kent Germany.

Larry: This is a book that's really important about the Great Society. When you read it in connection with some of the essays, and Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon's Creole New Orleans. That's another classic that really open things up. You get a really strong comprehension of how Black politics emerged from its cocoon, from its larval stage, if you will. Because it was already semi-organized in the 1950s, but it was the Great Society, the Model Cities Program, and federal money that's coming in. Now, they're using that to organize Black political life in the city. It's really a story of the origins of modern Black politics.

[‘Working in a Coal Mine’ by Booker T. and the M.G.’s]

The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.

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