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This essay examines various artistic attempts by Kara Walker, Robert Polidori, Spike Lee, and Jana Napoli to understand the visual trauma engendered by the flooding and desperation that followed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a cataclysm of national and historic importance. This event marks an important fork in the road toward a postracial America, on the one hand, and a consistently racist America, on the other. It reveals how many of the artistic responses to Hurricane Katrina by New Orleans–based artists engaged the task of locating unheroic realities and celebrating the stories of both the victims and the survivors.

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