The Mighty Mississippi with Trevor McDonald

Tuesday, 24 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

In the third episode of the series Trevor visits the town which inspired the Huckleberry Finn novels, the island dedicated to making guns and the city known for being one of the best places to live in America. 

The third part of Trevor’s journey sees him arrive in St Louis, Missouri on Independence Day and head to the St Louis Cardinals baseball stadium to meet the players and talk to them about being a part of the ultimate American sport. 

Trevor visits an area of St Louis which is home to the largest community of Bosnians in American after they fled the civil war in the eastern European country. He meets one couple who have just got married and a businessman who takes him to ‘Little Bosnia’ and explains that the previously run-down area is now thriving with Bosnian businesses. 

Trevor’s next stop is the town of Hannibal which was home to writer Sam Clements who wrote the Huckleberry Finn novels under the name of Mark Twain. Trevor takes to the water and gets behind the wheel of a paddle steamer in a nod to Mark Twain’s life as a river pilot in his younger years. 

He says: “It is a gorgeous way to spend a day. Very calm and very contemplating. Very soothing. The river is still a route for cargo today and these barges are now the work horses.” 

As Trevor continues on his journey up the Mississippi he visits Rock Island, Illinois, which is one of the largest weapons manufacturing facilities in the world. Workers on the 950 acre island use scrap metal to make guns and have provided weapons for every major conflict America has been involved in since the civil war. 

Trevor makes his way onto the heavily guarded island and is shown around by Colonel James Fly who explains that one of the main functions of Rock Island now is to devise armour to protect US troops. 

Trevor sees the guns being made and reconditioned and visits the firing range where he discovers that a machine gun developed in the 1920s is widely used today. 

Next Trevor heads to Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city with such low crime and unemployment rates that it’s earned it the reputation as one of the best places to live in America. 

Trevor meets the mayor who explains that the city’s well being is down to it being at the site of the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi. The waterfall provided the power for the mills, which made the city into the milling capital of the world. The mills then diversified and the city is now home to corporate giants like General Mills and Pillsbury. 

As well as thriving businesses, Minneapolis is also surrounded by a thousand amazing lakes. Trevor visits Lake Minnetonka, which is 12 miles long, and admires some of the multi-million dollar properties on its shores. 

Next Trevor meets the Golden Gophers, one of America’s top cheerleading squads. He discovers that cheerleading troupes used to be all male and that former American presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush were all cheerleaders. Women got involved when the men were away fighting at war and now both men and women take part. Trevor talks to some of the cheerleaders to see what attracted them to the pastime and bravely allows them to lift him onto their shoulders in an ‘elevator’ move. 

Before leaving Minnesota, Trevor visits the Mall of America, the biggest shopping centre in the United States, which boasts its own indoor theme park, aquarium and chapel. Trevor visits the chapel to meet a couple who have just got married to discover why they chose a shopping centre for their wedding. 

Finally, Trevor boards a plane to take the final stage of his journey to the source of the Mississippi. Almost at the Canadian border the mighty river starts as a stream running over rocks. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

In this brand new series for ITV1, Trevor McDonald ventures 2500 miles up the mighty Mississippi river to examine how this magnificent waterway has played a central role in the most dramatic events in American history. 

Trevor begins his journey in the stunning Gulf of Mexico before travelling by helicopter, boat and plane through 31 states to reach the source of the river in Northern Minnesota. 

Along the way he looks back through history and gives his views on the most painful chapters of life in the Deep South and sees the devastating affects of disasters both natural and man-made. 

Plus, he talks to people he meets along the way, including actor Morgan Freeman, who talks about life growing up in a segregated community, and one of Elvis Presley’s former girlfriends. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

In this brand new series for ITV1, Trevor McDonald ventures 2500 miles up the mighty Mississippi river to examine how this magnificent waterway has played a central role in the most dramatic events in American history. 

Trevor begins his journey in the stunning Gulf of Mexico before travelling by helicopter, boat and plane through 31 states to reach the source of the river in Northern Minnesota. 

Along the way he looks back through history and gives his views on the most painful chapters of life in the Deep South and sees the devastating affects of disasters both natural and man-made. 

Plus, he talks to people he meets along the way, including actor Morgan Freeman, who talks about life growing up in a segregated community, and one of Elvis Presley’s former girlfriends. 

 

Episode One 

The first part of the series sees Trevor take to the air to look down upon the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, before heading to New Orleans, where he attends a colourful jazz funeral, meets a debutante and witnesses the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina still evident years after the tragedy. 

His journey takes him to a plantation, one of a few still working, and he is shocked to see inside a slave cabin. Trevor also takes a ride on an airboat through a primeval swamp and comes face to face with one of his worse nightmares. 

As he starts his exploration of the Mississippi, Trevor is mesmerised by the breath-taking view as his seaplane swoops over the vast wetland created by the river as it meets the sea. 

His first stop is the vibrant city of New Orleans where he heads for the Garden District to see its impressive collection of mansions, some of which have been in the same family for generations. He meets the Favrow family who have lived in the area for 200 years. He talks to their daughter about the debutante ball season, a traditional period which sees daughters of wealthy New Orleans’ families attend a year long calendar of parties and balls in lavish gowns. 

In contrast to the Garden District, Trevor also visits the Third Ward of the city where most of the inhabitants are descendants of slaves. He attends a jazz funeral, a music and dance parade to see off one of the much-loved members of the community. 

Next Trevor takes to the river itself and ventures aboard a tug boat to learn about the challenges and dangers of navigating the Mississippi. 

And he heads to downtown New Orleans where jazz began and visits the Howling Wolf Club to listen to the music and join in the dancing. One band member reveals to Trevor how joining a jazz band has saved his life. He explains that so many of his contemporaries have suffered from depression because of the high crime rates in the area and some have even turned to drugs. 

As they chat, Trevor decides to try out a tuba, but even though he successfully holds it around his neck, he fails to get a sound out of it. 

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans causing the banks of the Mississippi to burst and eighty per cent of the city to be submerged under water. 

Hundreds of people died in the floods and the devastating effects of the storm can still be seen today. Trevor visits the Ninth Ward, which was the worst hit area, with Darin Collins, who grew up there. The area, which was once full of houses and families living in busy streets, is now mostly deserted. All that remains in many streets are the slabs of concrete where homes once stood. Chillingly, on any houses that do remain, are painted numbers indicating the dates when they were inspected and how many bodies were found inside at the time of the disaster. 

Trevor is moved by the scene and says: “Because this part of the city is overwhelmingly poor and black, the debate about its reconstruction has inevitably raised questions about race and inequality. Before the hurricane, the population of New Orleans was three quarters black, now, the figure is just over half. Many survivors of Katrina simply cannot afford to rebuild their lives in a devastated ward. 

“To me, the official response to what happened here is a blot on the reputation of an otherwise prosperous city.” 

After his trip to New Orleans, Trevor moves north to the plantation area of Edgard, Louisiana. He drives by many plantation mansions before visiting the Evergreen Plantation which is still a working farm. He meets manager Josephine Romo who shows him around and he admires the stunning views from the house and the beautiful vintage furniture inside. 

However, out of sight from the main house lay over 20 wooden cabins where the slaves working on the plantation were housed and Trevor is taken aback as he goes inside them. Josephine explains how long it would have taken the slaves to build these homes and she and Trevor discuss how the women would give birth to babies in the sure knowledge that their children would inevitably grow up to be slaves. 

Josephine shows Trevor a document from an evaluation of the estates in 1835, when slaves were detailed as ‘Negro of confidence’ and ‘Negress field hand and children worth $1000’. 

After his visit, Trevor says: “Even now, looking at these old houses, you can almost taste the wealth they shared. But, of course, they’re central to one of the darkest periods in American history. Less visible is the uglier side of plantation magnificence, reminders of the lives of thousands who toiled from dawn to dusk as slaves. 

“On a fine day like this, with the birds singing in the trees, Evergreen may look idyllic, but these cabins hold memories of years of unremitting toil, casual brutality and unconscionable hardship.” 

Moving on, Trevor takes a ride on an airboat across the biggest swamp in the county and marvels at how the owner, Tucker Freedman, finds his way around. The inhospitable swamp, which once served as a refuge for runaway slaves, is now home to a variety of wildlife and Trevor is stunned when Tucker attracts a local alligator to the boat by calling his name and making a special sound with his mouth. Trevor looks on as his most feared animal swims for the boat to be fed marshmallows and be petted by Tucker. 

Finally, Trevor visits a gospel church and speaks to the pastor who explains to him that, even today, many of the songs sung in the church are inspired by freedom and liberation. 

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