The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror

Trauma, History, and the Great Storm of 1900

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Restricted access

This article considers the lurid accounts of looting and lynching that circulated after the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane, the deadliest storm in United States history. Previous accounts of the flood have tended to ignore or subsume these stories in narratives of heroic recovery and progress. But Galvestonians' fantasies of racial violence suggest that the specific catastrophe of the flood was part of the ongoing disaster of racial terror in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Understanding disaster as a chronic human process rather than an acute wound from nature reveals that, instead of allowing white Galvestonians to transcend their history of violence against African Americans, the storm seemed to authorize them to further enact and reenact the imposition of suffering.