The swamps of Louisiana and the rich lowlands of the lower Mississippi Delta have long been a destination for immigrants. In recent decades, the largest number of immigrants have come from Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Cities and river towns, which have seen their economies shift from agriculture to commercial enterprise and industry, are now home to these newcomers. The Mississippi River has also regained its importance as a transportation hub for the region. The longest period of emigration for Southerners occurred during World War II, when 1.6 million people moved north or joined the military.
This included a third of African-Americans. Those who tried to organize against the local power structure were forced to take to the streets in southern Missouri and Arkansas in the mid-1930s. The Delta covers 35,000 square miles from southern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, encompassing 219 counties in seven states and approximately 8.3 million people. In Mississippi and across the country, health disparities are significantly worse for those who have faced health obstacles due to their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geographical location, and other characteristics historically related to discrimination or exclusion. In the 1950s, Cubans moved to New Orleans and Vietnamese immigrants began arriving in South Louisiana in the 1970s. Slavery remained a vital element of Southern society until 1787 when the US Constitution allowed it to continue until 1808 and protected involuntary servitude where it existed then. The Spanish left their cultural stamp on life at the southern end of the Delta.
Sugar production was centered in southern Louisiana, along with rice and later on the Arkansas Delta. In addition, during 1934 a group of white and African-American sharecroppers organized the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) in Marked Tree, Arkansas. In the Southeast, Indian tribes were offered the option of assimilating into white society or moving west. Populations of French descent still live in southern Illinois and Missouri in communities such as Prairie du Rocher, Kaskaskia and Ste. Genevieve. Southern Mississippi faces unique economic issues such as Food Security; Public Transportation; Workplace Safety; Affordable Housing; Violence and Crime; Education; Job Opportunities and Income.
Tragedy and melodrama are popular genres in Delta literature with kinship and family being important themes.