In the 1960s and '70s, towns across the South created inexpensive private schools to keep white students from having to mix with black. Many remain open, the communities around them as divided as ever.
It took LaToysha Brown 13 years to realize how little interaction she had with white peers in her Mississippi Delta town: not at church, not at school, not at anywhere.
The realization dawned when she was in the seventh grade, studying the civil rights movement at an after-school program called the Sunflower County Freedom Project. It didn't bother her at first. By high school, however, Brown had started to wonder if separate could ever be equal. She attended a nearly all-black high school with dangerous sinkholes in the courtyard, spotty Internet access in the classrooms, and a shortage of textbooks all around. Brown had never been inside Indianola Academy, the private school most of the town's white teenagers attend. But she sensed that the students there had books they could take home and walkways free of sinkholes.
"The schools would achieve so much more if they would combine," said Brown, now age 17 and a junior.
But more than four decades after they were established, "segregation academies" in Mississippi towns like Indianola continue to define nearly every aspect of community life. Hundreds of these schools opened across the country in the 20 years after the Brown v. Board decision, particularly in southern states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Virginia. While an unknown number endure outside of Mississippi, the Delta remains their strongest bastion.