Alabama's Black Belt area is part of a larger, national Black Belt region that stretches from Texas to Virginia. This region has historically been home to "the richest soil and the poorest people" in the United States, as noted by Arthur Raper in his 1936 study Preface to Peasantry. "From DeSoto's meeting with Tuscaloosa to the birth of the Confederacy and the civil rights struggles of the mid-twentieth century," it is here that some of nation's most significant historical events have occurred.
Originally, the term referred to the exceptionally fertile black soil that encouraged early pioneers in the 1820s and 1830s to settle Alabama and construct a network of cotton plantations that supported half of Alabama's enslaved population. During this time, the Black Belt was one of the wealthiest and most politically powerful regions in the United States, and its commerce elevated Montgomery, Selma, and Demopolis into some of the most affluent towns in the nation. As the Civil War began in the early 1860s, Montgomery was chosen as the first capital of the Confederacy.
In recent decades, the region has been known for the birth of the Civil Rights Movement initiated by the high population of African American residents in the region. "In the 1950s and 1960s, long-oppressed African American residents of the Alabama Black Belt, aided by Supreme Court decisions and congressional actions, transformed small towns such as Tuskegee, Marion, Selma, Hayneville, and Eutaw into scenes of some of the most critical moments of the modern American freedom struggle."
Through the theme, Black Belt Transformations: Change and Adaption on the Landscape
, four interpretive storylines tell the unique story of Alabama's Black Belt region, a place where the stories are as rich as the land. Click on the following link for an inventory of sites, aligned by storyline: Destinations