American Experience

The Harvest: Integrating Mississippi's Schools

Season 35  Episode 8

After the 1954 Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, little more than token efforts were made to desegregate Southern schools. That changed dramatically on October 29, 1969, when the high court ordered that Mississippi schools to fully - and immediately - desegregate. As a result, a group of children became part of the first class of Black and white children who would attend all 12 grades together in Leland.

THE HARVEST follows a coalition of Black and white citizens working to create racially integrated public schools in a cotton town in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, the most rigidly segregated area in America. It tells the extraordinary story of how that first class became possible, then traces the lives of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas A. Blackmon and his classmates, teachers and parents from the first day through high school graduation in 1982. It is a riveting portrait of how those children’s lives were transformed and how the town - and America - were changed. But as the film follows the lives of those children into the present, it is also a portrait of what our society has lost in its failure to finish the work begun a generation ago.