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The Black Belt

The crescent-shaped region known as the Black Belt stretches from Texas to Virginia. As noted by Arthur Raper in his 1936 study Preface to Peasantry, this region historically has been home to “the richest soil and the poorest people” in the United States. In his autobiographical work Up from Slavery, Dr. Booker T. Washington observed that he had "often been asked to define the term ‘Black Belt.’ So far as I can learn," he wrote:

the term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the colour of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense—that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white. (Washington, 1965, p.68)

In the roughly two hundred counties comprising today’s Black Belt, over half the population is African-American.

The Alabama Black Belt extends from Mississippi's border through the heart of the state. From DeSoto’s meeting with Tuskaloosa to the birth of the Confederacy and the civil rights struggles of the mid-twentieth century, it was here that some of some of Alabama's most significant historical events occurred. It is an area rich in cultural traditions and the strength of its people. Unfortunately, however, it is also an area in dire need, confronted with economic stagnation, declining population, and insufficient health care and schools.

 

 

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