Learnings From Our Travels Across the American South
In 2018, the E Pluribus Unum team hit the road to learn how residents of the American South experience issues of race and class in their communities. We visited places where neighborhoods are still highly segregated, and where leaders are confronting challenges and advancing solutions to address division and disparity. We met with people where they live, by traveling to 28 communities across 13 Southern states over the course of a year. The locations in each state were diverse in demographics, size, industry, and geography. Our qualitative interviews capture the lived experiences of individuals in regards to race, economic opportunity, equity, and community violence.
To elicit candid responses and unique insights, our interview instruments used purposefully broad questions. We asked:
- What’s working?
- What’s not?
- What solutions can bring people together?
- Where can we find common ground?
A team of researchers, comprised of social workers and public policy professionals conducted individual interviews sourced through partner organizations, such as the National Urban League and PolicyLink. Small group conversations, roundtable discussions, and community listening sessions used the same interview instruments, but in a facilitated setting, ranging from a dozen to more than 50 people from the cross-section of a community. Small group conversations focused more narrowly on specific sectors or demographics, such as coal miners and educators in West Virginia, youth and interfaith leaders in Kentucky, and community farmers in Tennessee. GBAO Strategies of Washington, D.C., designed and facilitated focus groups of the general population, broken down by race, gender, age, and education level.