Camille, 1969
Histories of a Hurricane

Mark M. Smith

One of our most innovative historians explores the many meanings of a natural disaster


"The strengths of Camille, 1969 lie in Smith's provocative questions; in his seamless fluency in the languages of politics, economics, and history; and in his poetic gift of storytelling. His book is not simply a historical account of a single hurricane, but a story about the ethics of recovery."
American Scholar

“In the post-Katrina era, the Category Five Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969, is often forgotten. Mark Smith’s Camille, 1969 provides a fresh perspective on Hurricane Camille by examining not only the human dimensions of the disaster but also the racial and political contexts that shaped both the immediate impact of the storm and the long recovery that followed.”
—Charles C. Bolton, author of The Hardest Deal of All: The Battle over School Integration in Mississippi, 1870–1980

"Before Katrina, there was Camille, which slammed into the Gulf Coast in 1969 with the greatest force recorded for a hurricane in modern times. Mark Smith, one of the most creative of southern historians, has now placed that disaster in the context of the South's history—the deep history of race, as well as the contemporary movement for civil rights. His provocative essays are bound to stimulate discussion among scholars and students of the South, and of 'natural' disasters in U.S. History."
—J. William Harris, author of The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man's Encounter with Liberty

“A stunning, eloquent book that reveals the sheer destructive power of nature. In Camille, 1969, Mark Smith carries us into the eye of the storm and helps us understand how Camille, Katrina, and other hurricanes that will surely follow will forever change our life on this planet.”
—William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

"Smith's excellent essays, while not intended to offer a thorough treatment of Camille, represent an important contribution to the growing field of southern environmental history and promise to invigorate scholarly discussions about the cultural meanings of natural disasters in the South."
—Mark D. Hersey, The Journal of Southern History

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Thirty-six years before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and southern Mississippi, the region was visited by one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the United States: Camille.

Mark M. Smith offers three highly original histories of the storm’s impact in southern Mississippi. In the first essay Smith examines the sensory experience and impact of the hurricane—how the storm rearranged and challenged residents’ senses of smell, sight, sound, touch, and taste. The second essay explains the way key federal officials linked the question of hurricane relief and the desegregation of Mississippi’s public schools. Smith concludes by considering the political economy of short- and long-term disaster recovery, returning to issues of race and class.

Camille, 1969 offers stories of survival and experience, of the tenacity of social justice in the face of a natural disaster, and of how recovery from Camille worked for some but did not work for others. Throughout these essays are lessons about how we might learn from the past in planning for recovery from natural disasters in the future.

Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures

Page count: 90 pp.
8 b&w photos, 1 map
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $29.95

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Mark M. Smith is Carolina Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. He is the author or editor of numerous books including Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History; Writing the American Past: U.S. History to 1877; and Hearing History: A Reader (Georgia).