About 45 minutes south of Little Rock, things have come undone.
Pine Bluff, a county seat of around 50,000, was once a major agricultural and industrial center along the Arkansas River. But after decades of economic disinvestment and decline, the town is now threadbare. Main Street, jilted by fickle industries with more attractive suitors, is a hologram of itself — rows of two and three-story buildings, empty, faded, barely alive. In recent years, the town was voted one of the most dangerous metropolitan area in the country, and roughly 40% of its residents live below the national poverty line.
There is still a powerful sense of community, hope, and history in this place, but the battle is an uphill one. If things don’t change soon, there may not be much left to recover.