Shimmering fields of cotton and pecan orchards punctuate the predominantly pine and oak forests around Cairo, Georgia. The region’s lifeblood is the Flint River, which borders the fictional slave labor plantation in Gone With the Wind. In reality, the river flows from west central Georgia into the Gulf of Mexico, and its waters are clean enough to harbor bass, bluegill and bullheads.
Located amid rolling hills not far from the border with Florida, Cairo is a town with fewer than 10,000 residents that’s known locally for its vintage car show, but it has a claim to fame when it comes to the long fight for racial equality: It was the birthplace of Jackie Robinson, who went on to break baseball’s color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Barbara McDuffie, who was born in the same town less than a decade later, has through her life experiences and careers — placing children in adopted families and more recently promoting voter education and engagement — developed distinct insights into the area’s enduring challenges when it comes to race and inequality.
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