National Geographic : 2012 Nov
east side. Not until the early 20th century did lumbering turn the delta into a moonscape of level elds. e towns along the lower White River and its tributaries beckoned sawmills and a stful of woodworking factories. e town of Helena was a factory oor for lumber and wood veneer in the 1920s. It was an early booster of the dream of an industrialized New South that never came to pass. In the 1940s and '50s, thanks to the King Bis- cuit Time radio show, Helena became the broad- cast center for blues dri ing across the delta. Juke joints boomed on Walnut Street, and whites secretly listened to the blues of Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, and James Cotton on the radio. en came the civil rights victories, and whites pulled their kids from integrated schools. Now Helena-West Helena is a collapsed place---the nal blow came on July 9, 1979, when Mohawk Rubber closed and took the last fat payroll with it. But there is an e ort to make the town a cultural center, a shrine to the blues. Abandoned buildings say the place is over. e blues festival says it may come back. e morn- ing light, the passing people who all say hello, the green vines that seem to devour all the work of human beings, the Mississippi River that licks the levees---these things insist that life goes on. happened. Eugene Richards was at his boarding- house. ere may have been a beating, he thinks. Maybe it was because two of his black female co-workers lived in the same boardinghouse he did. e only thing he knows for sure is that he ended up with seizures, possibly from a blow to the head, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Texas. When he spoke to his white landlady years later, she said she had caught someone pinning Ku Klux Klan crosses to the boarding- house's gate but hadn't wanted to worry him. ere were other incidents: his dog, Mange, shot to death; lug nuts removed from the wheels of his girlfriend's car; a gun pulled on him and some black friends at a café; his face cut by a big white man with razor blades as Richards came out of a black church one Sunday. Two young VISTA volunteers were beaten bloody with bro- ken co ee cups in a restaurant in nearby Hughes. e assailants reportedly thought the men were Richards and a co-worker. Responding to the abject poverty and racial 1971: On a freezing Saturday morning the Valentine children watched TV, though the plastic and cardboard on the windows barely kept out the wind and cold.