Letter of Transmittal

The President
The President of the Senate
The Speaker of the House of Representatives


The United States Commission on Civil Rights transmits this report to you pursuant to P.L.103-419. It is the product of a three-day fact-finding hearing, sworn testimonies of numerous witnesses, subpoenaed data, and research.

The Mississippi Delta Report is the seventh volume in a series of Commission reports on Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination. The report examines underlying causes of racial and ethnic tensions in the Mississippi Delta, focusing on the areas of equality of economic opportunity, public education, and voting rights.

Our recommendations are directed to the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and the federal government. With respect to matters under federal jurisdiction, the Commission recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should thoroughly investigate and resolve outstanding complaints of discriminatory treatment at local FSA offices. The agency should also work with other governmental entities to examine lending practices at area banks in rural areas to determine, document, and alleviate discriminatory lending practices, as well as institutional barriers that contribute to lengthy loan approval methods. Further, the agency should examine legislative initiatives which currently exist that contribute to farm foreclosure and prevent farmers from reducing their farm loan debt. The Commission also strongly recommends that the USDA resolve the backlog of civil rights complaints through the most expedient, equitable, and efficient mechanisms. The institutional factors that created the backlog should be investigated and eliminated.

Finally, the Commission recommends that the USDA fully act upon its February 27, 1997, commitment to ensure that its staff is adequately trained and its complaint processing procedures are adequately implemented.

The Commission further recommends that the U.S. Department of Education increase its scrutiny of educational disparities in the Delta and provide adequate avenues for parents, teachers, and other concerned parties to participate in monitoring and evaluation processes. The Department should specifically ensure that nondiscriminatory polices and procedures are followed with regard to assignments to special education classes and disciplinary actions. The Department should require all school districts to provide civil rights compliance data on these assignments and actions.

Among other recommendations, the Commission urges the Congress to increase funding for the civil rights enforcement activities for the federal agencies investigating discrimination in the Mississippi Delta, to enact legislation to increase economic development in the Delta, and amend the Census Act to allow the use of statistical sampling for apportionment purposes. We urge the executive and legislative branches of government to act upon and implement the recommendations in this report, and to move forward with policies designed to meet the changing needs of America’s ethnically and racially diverse communities. The Commission hopes that this report will be a useful reference in the formulation of that strategy.

For the Commissioners,

Mary Frances Berry