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76 MIN READ TIME

The Most Radical City on the Planet

UNTIL RECENTLY, most progressives wrote off electoral politics in the South. But before the near-wins of Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida, there was Chokwe Lumumba, a radical black lawyer and organizer who was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi’s capital, in 2013. His victory helped put Jackson on the map as a progressive city—a seeming contradiction in a state better known for its stubborn poverty, violent Confederate fan boys, and deeply entrenched black oppression.

As much shock as Lumumba’s win elicited, it was decades in the making. Lumumba, a Detroit native with southern roots (like many black Detroiters), came to live in Jackson in the 1980s as part of a deliberate strategy to organize and build independent black power in the “Black Belt”—five southern states with a high percentage of African Americans (Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina).

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