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Many evacuees from the Ninth Ward will likely never be able to return, Mr. Jackson said. He told Mayor C. Ray Nagin that it would be a mistake to rebuild that part of town, the lowest-lying section and prone to flooding.

Mr. Davis said that despite history, he does not think New Orleans will see black migration similar to black migration from Mississippi after the 1927 flood that inundated hundreds of thousands of acres in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many black farmers and field hands fled to Chicago, Detroit and other cities for a better life in the Midwest.

“New Orleans is not a plantation, not a farm, and I think there will be many efforts to make sure there will be affordable housing and construction job training for residents to rebuild and have the option to return home,” he said.