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“It was heartbreaking, but we couldn’t give up. I just said, ‘Well, I’ve got to get in and do it.’”—Phil Harris, eight-decade-long resident of Hollygrove
As floodwaters drained in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents came to a difficult realization. Their city was about to undertake the largest disaster recovery in American history, yet they faced a profound leadership vacuum: members of every tier of government, from the municipal to the federal level, had fallen down on the job. We Shall Not Be Moved tells the absorbing story of the community leaders who stepped into this void to rebuild the city they loved.
From a Vietnamese Catholic priest who immediately knows when two of his six thousand parishioners go missing to a single mother from the Lower Ninth Ward who instructs the likes of Jimmy Carter and Brad Pitt, these intrepid local organizers show that a city’s fate rests on the backs of its citizens. On their watch, New Orleans neighborhoods become small governments. These leaders organize their neighbors to ward off demolition threats, write comprehensive recovery plans, found community schools, open volunteer centers, raise funds to rebuild fire stations and libraries, and convince tens of thousands of skeptical residents to return home. Focusing on recovery efforts in five New Orleans neighborhoods—Broadmoor, Hollygrove, Lakeview, the Lower Ninth Ward, and Village de l’Est—Tom Wooten presents vivid narratives through the eyes and voices of residents rebuilding their homes, telling a story of resilience as entertaining as it is instructive.
The unprecedented community mobilization underway in New Orleans is a silver lining of Hurricane Katrina’s legacy. By shedding light on this rebirth, We Shall Not Be Moved shows how residents, remarkably, turned a profound national failure into a story of hope.
Praise for We Shall Not Be Moved:
“Few disasters are ever truly ‘natural,’ and, as Tom Wooten shows, reconstruction after catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina is shaped heavily by individuals, their communities, and the structural barriers they face. Portraying a diverse range of community leaders, Wooten spins a compelling tale based on deep knowledge of local worlds, linked to an understanding of the large-scale social forces that affect these worlds in ways too often invisible to journalists and other chroniclers of events like Katrina. The stories in We Shall Not Be Moved show the essential role of local knowledge in long-term recovery and reconstruction.”—Paul Farmer, author of Haiti After the Earthquake
“That New Orleans was able to rebuild after the levees broke—without sacrificing the city’s essential and unique character—is one of American history’s most inspiring stories. Future historians studying the resurrection of New Orleans will find We Shall Not Be Moved an invaluable resource.”—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives
“A moving portrait of a city’s struggle to rebuild. It is not an account of Katrina per se. . . . Rather, it is a story of the arduous endeavor residents have undertaken in New Orleans. . . . Every bit as gripping and important as tales from the storm itself.” Walter Issacson, from the Foreword
“In this moving book, Tom Wooten narrates the daily struggles of residents of five neighborhoods in New Orleans to overcome the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. We Shall Not Be Moved brilliantly weaves together the stories of community residents, including accounts of their unprecedented organizing and rebuilding efforts. Wooten’s revealing nonfiction narrative is a must-read.”—William Julius Wilson, author of More Than Just Race
“Wooten’s gripping narrative account of post-Katrina recovery speaks to the importance of local organizing as a source of community resilience in disaster’s wake. The stories he tells have implications that reach far beyond the particular circumstance of New Orleans, helping us understand the overall dynamics of community recovery.”—Marshall Ganz, author of Why David Sometimes Wins
“We Shall Not Be Moved weaves together a sociologically rich account of human resilience in the face of collective catastrophe with a compelling analysis.” —Erik Olin Wright, president, American Sociological Association