Black Cloud: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928


In September 1928, when great storms were still unnamed, nearly 700 black men, women, and children were buried in an unmarked West Palm Beach ditch following the nation's second-deadliest hurricane. The savage gusts that churned the waters of Lake Okeechobee into a maelstrom of death afflicted victims of all races and classes, and produced tales of survival and loss among whites and blacks alike. The vast majority of the post-storm workers were poor black migrants; even if the hurricane was color-blind, the recovery and rebuilding effort were not. Palm Beach Post hurricane reporter and Florida native Eliot Kleinberg has penned the gripping tale of the killer hurricane. The storm's journey is chronicled as it kills perhaps 7,000 people along its path from the Caribbean to Canada, including a low official tally of 1,836 in Florida alone. Detailing the storm's track, the failure to properly predict landfall, personal battles against nature's wrath, and the extraordinary suffering of a black citizenry forced to provide a disproportionate amount of rebuilding labor and endure the burial of friends and family in an unmarked pit, Kleinberg tells a powerful story of man versus nature and man versus man.

Reviews & Awards

"...outstanding and vivid depiction of the Great Florida Hurricane of 1928..."

2004 National Hurricane Conference Special Award, Historical

"The author has given us a complex, moving book that does true justice to what is probably South Florida's most important single event"

Stuart McIver, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Kleinberg is conscientious about dates, facts, figures. But a hurricane is a story essentially about power and suffering, and the author is at his best describing heroes, gougers and exploiters. His reconstruction of the sense of living through the storm's long, pitiless night...will leave you holding your breath"

Betsy Willeford, Cox News Service

"Well-researched and illuminating"

Michael Grunwald, The New Republic

"A full history of really inclement weather in a nimbus of telling particulars, sure to be popular with fans of disaster tales"

Kirkus Reviews

"A riveting document of scholarly value"

Cathy Mathias, Florida Today

"Difficult to put down, especially in the middle of hurricane season... One of the most far-reaching and intriguing books ever written about one hurricane's destructive tendencies"

Mark Davis, Daytona Beach News-Journal

"Heart-wrenching...(Kleinberg) brings disaster to life, meticulously weaving together varied strands of history, collected from numerous resources, to form a realistic reenactment of the second-deadliest natural catastrophe in U.S. History"

Miami Herald

"Required reading for all of us who live around here in the danger zone"

Ken Matthews, Lake Worth Forum

"'To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme', cautioned Ishmael as he contemplated the great white whale... In 'Black Cloud', journalist Eliot Kleinberg succeeds admirably"

Gary Mormino, St. Petersburg Times

"As heart-stopping as any suspense thriller. It is also a cautionary tale, proof again that no more deadly force exists than the wrath of wind and water; no killer as merciless as Mother Nature on a homicidal spree"

Edna Buchanan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Miami: It's Murder

"Kleinberg has assembled what is pretty much the definitive history of this hurricane, in a book that is very compellingly readable, meticulously researched and, above all, extraordinarily well-organized"

Michael C. Browning, co-author, Dead Men Do Tell Tales

Read the Florida Historical Quarterly Review

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