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The Anonymous Town That Was The Model of Desegregation in the Civil Rights Era

Authors of the landmark civil rights-era Coleman Report, a massive federal survey of U.S. educational inequality, concluded that if desegregation were to work anywhere in the Deep South, it would be in the town of “River City,” an oasis of tolerance and pragmatic gentility in the Mississippi Delta, the blackest, poorest, “most southern place on earth.”

The Coleman Report became legendary, fueling and informing debates that are still raging today. But no one gave away River City’s identity, or kept track to see if its promise came true. Did the town’s good-intentioned integration plan succeed in bringing a deeply divided community together to improve education for both black and white students?