Divided By Design

Findings From The American South

Our Mission

Incubated at Emerson Collective and led by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, E Pluribus Unum is an initiative created to fulfill America’s promise of justice and opportunity for all by breaking down the barriers that divide us by race and class.

Out of Many, One

In the initiative’s first year, the E Pluribus Unum team traveled extensively across the American South to uncover and confront the challenges we face, to learn from people about what separates us and what can bring us together, and to find bold and effective solutions to tackle the modern legacy of Jim Crow so that an inclusive new South may be born.

Where We’ve Been

We met with people where they live, by traveling to 28 communities across 13 Southern states over the course of a year. We’ve visited diverse parts of the region, geographically, demographically, and culturally. Along our journey, we’ve had discussions in many different settings from one-on-one interviews to small groups in roundtables to focus groups to community listening sessions. The capstone of this research is a 1,800-person survey across the states we visited.

Take a look at where we’ve been.

Click around on the interactive map to see what we learned at each location.

What We’ve Learned

We’ve coded every word of what we’ve heard to help add context to our key takeaways. This data plus our existing knowledge has resulted in 15 insights across three main categories. These insights are impactful, are supported by third-party data and can be backed up with context from real-life conversations we’ve had along our travels.

The Scale of Racism in America

Dive Deeper

Chapter 1: The Enduring Legacy of Racism


Chapter 2: Barriers to Opportunity


Chapter 3: Building a Shared Future


Putting Insights
into Action

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Cultivate Courageous Leadership

We talked to and learned from residents, including elected leaders, who are deeply committed to strengthening their communities and are working in creative ways to address issues of race and class. Our research has taught us that people place a great deal of hope in their local political leadership, particularly young leaders who openly prioritize diversity and building more inclusive systems. We also heard how leadership has the potential to set a permissive tone for perpetuating the harms of racism. Entrenched distrust and disappointment in leadership bred by persistent racial disparities and perceived lack of transparency can have a deeply harmful effect on residents’ hope for their community’s future. Our future work will ensure Southern leaders are empowered to act on issues of race and class in new ways.

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Champion Transformative Policies

The vestiges of America’s Jim Crow era are vivid to those who continue to experience them through unequal access to opportunity, democracy, safety, and protection under the law. The issues we seek to change have plagued our communities since our country’s founding. We do not claim to be the first to take an interest in breaking these barriers; rather, we are committed to supplementing the deep knowledge in this field with insights shared with us by communities across the South. We also hope to accelerate reform by building greater public awareness and influencing action around transformative policy and political change at the local, state and federal level.

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Change Narratives

Too many people in our country lack an understanding of the scale of racism present in America, including our racial history and how it still permeates today’s institutions. Racism is often narrowly defined as overt individual actions rather than systemic injustices. This is because race is not easy to discuss openly. But without doing so, scholars argue that racism will still persist. We must teach the lasting impact racism has had on our institutions and persistently advance intentional efforts toward creating racial equity. Our work will focus on empowering storytelling that highlights the impacts of racial injustice in our institutions to provide fuller context needed so that positive change happen, holding the media accountable when it broadcasts implicit racial bias in its reporting that furthers racial stereotypes, and on ensuring that our full and accurate racial history is told and not whitewashed because it is inconvenient or too difficult to acknowledge.

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While our initial travels are complete, our journey continues. Moving forward, the E Pluribus Unum team will both create and amplify creative solutions for finding common ground by cultivating courageous leadership, changing narratives that perpetuate systemic and interpersonal racism, and championing transformative policy change, ultimately proving the American motto that ‘out of many, one’ ⁠— and we are better for it.

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