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ProPublica's first-of-its-kind analysis shows that the suits are far more common in black communities than white ones.

ProPublica’s first-of-its-kind analysis shows that the suits are far more common in black communities than white ones.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the mayor of Jennings, a St. Louis suburb of about 15,000, settled in before a computer in the empty city council chambers. Yolonda Fountain Henderson, 50, was elected last spring as the city’s first black mayor.

On the screen was a list of every debt collection lawsuit against a resident of her city, at least 4,500 in just five years. Henderson asked to see her own street. On her block of 16 modest ranch-style homes, lawsuits had been filed against the occupants of eight. “That’s my neighbor across the street,” she said, pointing to one line on the screen.

And then she saw her own suit.