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Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disasters in U.S. history. Claiming over 1,000 lives and leaving thousands homeless, the storm carved a swath of destruction through the Gulf region, causing an estimated $125 billion in damage.
One of the many tragedies in the aftermath is the potential loss of a predominantly black city. Some 67% of New Orleans’ population was African American pre-Katrina. Many were poor and without the resources to return home after being forced to evacuate the city. With such a mass exodus, many are concerned about the city’s future racial makeup. What will the Big Easy look like after the recovery efforts? According to a September 2005 Gallup poll, 54% of African Americans and 67% of whites nationwide said they’d rebuild should their homes be destroyed by a natural disaster.
John R. Logan, a professor of sociology at Brown University who has studied the changing demographics of New Orleans, says his findings indicate that the city is at risk of losing more than 80% of its black population if residents are unable to return to their neighborhoods. Logan points out that blacks were less likely to be homeowners and had an average income that was 60% lower than their white counterparts, making it difficult for them to return without some sort of federal aid. “I think the result will be that the city will be cut to about 60% of its former size,” says Logan.”
Should reality mirror the Gallup poll and more whites than blacks return to New Orleans, the city would likely continue to be heavily segregated by race and income despite the federal government’s efforts to integrate it. In fact, most blacks were less than optimistic that government efforts would succeed. In the poll, 31% of African Americans believe these efforts will be only moderately successful and 22% say it will be a complete failure.