On a Design Mission in Mississippi

By Michael Kimmelman
New York Times
Feb. 20, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. — When officials in Mississippi’s rural Holmes County, about an hour’s drive north of here, hired an architecture firm to fix the county’s ailing schools, they got back plans for a new $40 million high school to serve 1,200 students.

Holmes County is among the poorest counties in the nation, plagued by age-old systematic racism, with a population (18,340)
that has been declining for more than a half-century. Holmes didn’t have $40 million to pay for a high school.

Community leaders reached out to Derrick Johnson, state president of the N.A.A.C.P., who also helps underserved Mississippi neighborhoods and districts with strategic planning. “Poor communities here are especially vulnerable,” Mr. Johnson told me the other day. “The whole system perpetuates exploitation. Residents need people they can trust.” So Mr. Johnson enlisted Roy Decker and Anne Marie Duvall, husband-and-wife architects from Jackson.

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