Jackson is the capital of Mississippi and a Deep South city rooted in its racial history. It recently opened the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Jackson and its neighboring towns have become increasingly segregated over the past few decades. Since 1980, Jackson’s white population has significantly decreased by about 72,000 people while it has seen growth among people of color by about 43,000 people. Economic vitality is unequal in Jackson as unemployment is nearly three times higher among black workers (11 percent) than it is when compared with their white counterparts (4 percent). In Jackson, 7 out of 10 jobs in the city are held by workers living outside of the city limits. Jackson will face a skills gap if it does not take steps to increase educational attainment among black residents. Sixty-four percent of white residents have some college education but only 26 percent of black residents do.
During our visit, residents told us how this division has created sharp inequities in education, housing and public transit. This has been exacerbated by suburbanization, a shortage of private investment and brain drain leaving the city. Residents shared that Jackson’s history of segregation and more recent political polarization make it difficult to bring people together to find solutions. Still, we heard frequently about the resiliency of this community and its enduring commitment to create a more equitable and vibrant city for all. The election of Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba in 2017 was repeatedly identified as an important change in political leadership for Jackson because he is seen as being part of a new generation of young leadership that can lead the city forward. IIn Jackson, we held individual interviews as well as small group discussions with higher education leaders. We visited with city leadership. And, we held three focus groups among non-college-educated black women, black men and white men. Learn more by reading the full report.