Black Belt (U.S. region)


Black Belt (U.S. region)

The Black Belt is a region of the United States. Although the term originally describes the prairies and dark soil of central Alabama and northeast Mississippi Fact|date=July 2008, it long has been used for a broad region in the American South characterized by a high population percentage of black people, acute poverty, rural decline, inadequate education programs, low educational attainment, poor health care, substandard housing, and high levels of crime and unemployment. While black residents are disproportionately affected, these problems apply to the region's general population. There are various definitions of the region, but it is generally a belt-like band through the center of the Deep South, stretching from as far north as Delaware to as far west as eastern Texas.

History

"Black Belt" is still used in the physiographic sense, describing a crescent-shaped region about convert|300|mi|km long and up to convert|25|mi|km wide, extending from southwest Tennessee to east-central Mississippi and then east through Alabama to the border with Georgia. Before the 19th century, this region was a mosaic of prairies and oak-hickory woods. [http://www.msstate.edu/org/mississippientmuseum/habitats/black.belt.prairie/BlackBeltPrairie.htm Black Belt Prairie] ] In the 1820s and 1830s, this region was identified as prime land for cotton plantations, resulting in a rush of immigrant planters and their slaves called "Alabama Fever". The region became one of the cores of an expanding cotton plantation system that spread through much of the American South. Eventually, "Black Belt" came to describe the larger area of the South with historic ties to slave plantation agriculture and the cash crops cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco.

After the American Civil War, slave-based plantations were generally replaced by a system of sharecropping.

Although this had been a richly productive region, the early 20th century brought a general economic collapse, among the many causes of which were soil erosion and depletion, the boll weevil invasion and subsequent collapse of the cotton economy, and the socially repressive Jim Crow laws. What had been one of the nation's wealthiest and most politically powerful regions became one of the poorest.

The mid-20th-century push for black Americans to be afforded civil rights equal to those of white Americans had roots in the center of the old Black Belt. Despite the successes of the civil-rights movement, the Black Belt remains one of the nation's poorest and most distressed areas.Fact|date=September 2007

Most of it remains rural, with a diverse range of crops, including most of the nation's peanut and soybean production. Despite many changes caused by the social, economic, and cultural developments in the South, as well as the early-20th-century Great Migration of many blacks to other regions of the United States, the Black Belt is seen by some as a national territory of black people within the United States, where they have the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to independence. [Haywood, Harry (1977). "For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question". Chicago: Liberator Press.]

Definitions

There are many definitions and geographic delineations of the Black Belt. One of the earliest and most frequently cited is that of Booker T. Washington, who wrote, in his 1901 autobiography, "Up from Slavery",

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.

In this definition, there are 96 counties with a black population percentage over 50%, of which 95 are distributed across the Coastal and Lowland South in a loose arc. [http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-5.pdf The Black Population: Census 2000 Brief]

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about the Black Belt in his 1903 book, "The Souls of Black Folk".

Other sources describe the Black Belt as "roughly 200 counties". [http://irhr.ua.edu/blackbelt/intro.html Black Belt Fact Book] In 1936, sociologist Arthur Raper described the Black Belt as some 200 plantation counties with black population portions over 50%, lying "in a crescent from Virginia to Texas". [ [http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2004/tullos/4a.htm The Black Belt] , Southern Spaces]

In 2000, a United States Department of Agriculture report proposed creating a federal regional commission, similar to the Appalachian Regional Commission, to address the social and economic problems of the Black Belt. This politically defined region, called the "Southern Black Belt", is a patchwork of 623 counties scattered throughout the South. [ [http://www.rural.org/sbb/summary.html The Southern Black Belt ] ] [http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ruralamerica/ra151/ra151d.pdf Federal Funds for the Black Belt]

ee also

*List of topics related to Black and African people
* Harry Haywood
* Freedom Road Socialist Organization
* Republic of New Afrika
* History of slavery in the United States

References

Further reading

*Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. "Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880" (1935), ISBN 0-689-70820-3
*Haywood, Harry. "Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist." Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978.
*Wimberley, Ronald C. and Libby V. Morris. "The Southern Black Belt: A National Perspective." Lexington: TVA Rural Studies and The University of Kentucky, 1997.
*Washington, Booker T. (1901) "Up From Slavery: An Autobiography." Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co.
*gutenberg|no=2376|name=Up From Slavery

External links

* [http://www.frso.org/docs/2006/2006nq.htm The Third International and the Struggle for a Correct Line on the African American National Question] ; Freedom Road Socialist Organization
* [http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/%7Eatlas/ Mapping History: The Darkwing Atlas Project] ; "Cotton Production in the American South: 1790-1860" interactive map
* Allen Tullos, [http://www.southernspaces.org/contents/2004/tullos/4a.htm "The Black Belt"] "Southern Spaces"


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