To celebrate the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase in 2003, Louisiana Public Broadcasting aired the most ambitious project in its 25-year history-a six-part series on the history of the state and its people.
The fifth episode is “The Currents of Change,” which tells the story of one of the central characters in the state’s history, the Mississippi River, and the flood of 1927 that ravaged the state and led to the creation of a unified levee system along the river. The show then traces the rise of future Louisiana Gov. and U.S. Senator Huey Long, the state’s best-known politician.
“The project begins with the flood of 1927,” said Tika Laudun, who produced and directed the show. “Louisiana is already incredibly poor and the flood of 1927 made it worse. People lose their houses and their properties. It had been the worst natural disaster to hit Louisiana at that time.”
Louisiana was an isolated rural state until then, she said. “Then Huey Long comes along [in 1928] and can do so much for people … He put a lot of focus on poor people and fought the big oil companies and offered people an idea that they too deserved better and that this wasn’t just a country of the rich.”
Ms. Laudun and Al Godoy, the episode’s co-producer, are from Louisiana. “As storytellers, we’re all Louisianans here and are very passionate about who we are,” Ms. Laudun said. “Although the primary intention was to have [the documentary] air on Louisiana Public Broadcasting, there is also an important educational component,” she said. The show is used as a teaching aid by many social studies teachers and university professors in the state.