The Black Belt is a narrow region in the southern United States from the Chesapeake Bay to the lower Mississippi River. The name both refers to the dark, fertile soil, and the population of African-Americans who were brought to plantations for slavery, and whose descendants remain a significant part of the region's population.
The Black Belt follows a theme of geographic "belts" across North America, including the northeastern Rust Belt and the southwestern Sun Belt. Much of the South is part of the "Bible Belt", known for its many Evangelical Protestant congregations.
The Black Belt is located along the Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line, between the Piedmont plateau and the Atlantic coastal plain. The chalk-rich soil of the Black Belt is prime land for commodity crops such as cotton and tobacco.
As the Seaboard Fall Line forms the head of navigation for many rivers, many major cities of the South are lined up in the Black belt.
Through the Atlantic slave trade, captives from West Africa arrived in Atlantic ports, most of them purchased by plantation owners. With expansion of plantations, indigenous Americans were relocated by force along the trail of Tears. See early history of the United States for this period. Outside the Black Belt, many plantations were founded along the Mississippi River and along the Atlantic coast.
Slavery ended with the American Civil War, but institutional racism remained in the south. With the Great Migration of the 20th century, millions of African-Americans left the Southern plantation region for cities across the United States; see industrialization of the United States.
The Black Belt was the center of attention for the Civil Rights movement; see postwar United States. The postwar years also saw concentration of African Americans and other ethnic minorities to urban neighborhoods, while suburbs and the countryside were mostly settled by white people. The South, in particular its countryside, is traditionally conservative, and since the 1960s a stronghold of the Republican Party. The counties along the Seaboard Fall Line are more urban and have a relatively large young and black population, and consistently vote for the Democrats.
From St. Augustine to Hampton Roads describes colonial and antebellum destinations along the Atlantic coast.
- 1 Washington DC. Not traditionally part of the Black Belt, but one of the first major American cities in which the black population became a majority through the Great Migration. As the capital of the United States, it has been the stage of many important historical events, and the site for many monuments and museums.
- 2 Harpers Ferry (West Virginia). This town which until 1863 was part of Virginia (the split off the two states being a result of the war) was the site of John Brown's famous raid that can be seen as a precursor to the war.
- 3 Southampton County, Virginia. Home to some of the most famous fugitives from slavery, including the narrator John Brown (not to be confused with the namesake abolitionist), Anthony W. Gardiner (ninth President of Liberia), Dred Scott (subject of the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court), and Nat Turner (leader of an 1831 rebellion).
- 4 Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. Preserved antebellum village famous for the courthouse in which Robert E. Lee surrended to the Union Army.
- 1 Market Street Park, Charlottesville. The Confederation and its leaders have been honoured with monuments and street names across the country, most of them from he early 20th century. There has been debate over the names and monuments, concerning posterity's view of the Civil War and slavery, and many of them have been removed in the 21st century. This park in Charlottesville is one of the most famous case studies. The site was set up in 1917 as Lee Park, with the Robert E. Lee monument inaugurated in 1924. Decades later, the monument led to protests, and in 2017, the City Council voted to remove it, and change the name to Emancipation Park. To protest the removal, white supremacists staged the infamous Unite the Right rally in August which led to riots. The park was renamed to the more neutral Market Street Park, and the Lee monument was finally dismantled in 2021.
- 2 Monticello, 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway (Charlottesville). The residence, estate and grave of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. He is considered one of the Founding Fathers and a champion of liberty, and during his presidency he had international slave trade outlawed. Still, his estate had up to 600 slaves, of which very few were ever freed. Historians have different interpretations of Jefferson's view of slavery.
- 1 Booker T Washington National Monument, Roanoke — Preserves portions of a former tobacco plantation where Booker T. Washington, noted African-American political leader, was born into slavery.
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- 1 Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro — Site of a battle in the American Revolution that contributed to ultimate British surrender at the end of the war.
- 3 Bennett Place (Durham (North Carolina)). This simple farmhouse was situated between Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters in Greensboro, and Union Gen. William T. Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh. In April 1865, the two commanders met at the Bennett Place, where they signed surrender papers for Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War, coming 17 days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
- 4 Historic Stagville, 5828 Old Oxford Highway (Durham (North Carolina)). Comprises the remains of North Carolina's largest pre-Civil War plantation and one of the South's largest. It once belonged to the Bennehan-Cameron family, whose combined holdings totaled approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres by 1860. Today, Stagville consists of 71 acres, on three tracts. On this land stand the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer's house, a huge timber framed barn built by skilled slave craftsmen, and the Bennehan Family cemetery.
- 5 Greensboro History Museum (Greensboro Historical Museum) (Greensboro). The Greensboro Historical Museum has extensive collections on the city's varied history, from pre-Columbian times all the way to the present day. Lots of artifacts on display with detailed information. Includes a collection of Civil War weapons and artifacts, and a little area that reproduces shops and buildings from turn-of-the-20th-century Greensboro. It also has a large number of exhibits for children.
- 6 International Civil Rights Center and Museum (Greensboro). The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is an archival center, collecting museum and teaching facility devoted to the international struggle for civil and human rights. The Museum celebrates the nonviolent protests of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, which inspired similar protests across the country, and served as a catalyst in the civil rights movement. The museum complex includes 30,000 square feet of exhibit space. It is located in the historic 1929 F.W. Woolworth building in Greensboro, and you can see the original lunch counter and stools where the Greensboro Four began their sit-ins.
- 7 Monroe (North Carolina). Site of the Kissing Case.
- Greenville, South Carolina
- 1 Ninety Six National Historic Site, Ninety Six — Site of a colonial-era village that was the location of a battle during the American Revolution.
- 2 Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, Camden — Preserves a set of colonial-era sites with artifacts from the American Revolution.
- 8 Ellison House (Sumter, South Carolina). Home of William Ellison, who had been a slave named "April" before he was freed in 1816 and changed his name. After gaining his freedom, Ellison became a successful plantation owner and the richest black person in South Carolina. He even ended up owning many slaves himself.
- 9 South Carolina Statehouse. With a copper dome and bronze stars marking places where Sherman's cannonballs struck, the Statehouse is well worth the trip for fans of history and architecture alike. The Statehouse is a notorious case-study for flying the Confederate Battle Flag in very modern times. For the Civil War centennial in 1962, the flag was placed over the dome in 1962, but the legislature's resolution designated no time for its removal. The flag remained until 2000, when it was moved to the nearby Confederate monument. In 2015, the flag was removed altogether.
- 5 Atlanta.
- 10 The King Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, 449 Auburn Ave, NE, Atlanta. The memorial of Martin Luther King Jr. which was established in 1968. The place shows Martin Luther King, Jr's nonviolent Social Change works. The historic site features a museum and preserves the neighborhood that includes Dr. King's birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. His Nobel Prize and tomb are also located here.
- 6 Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (Kennesaw, Georgia). A preserved battleground featuring 11 mi (18 km) of Union and Confederate earthworks.
- 11 Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Tuskegee). Campus of Tuskegee University, a private, historically black university founded in 1881. On campus are the graves of Booker T. Washington and George Carver Washington as well as Booker T. Washington's house and a museum devoted to Carver.
- 12 Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center, 104 S Elm St. Covers the history of Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans in the area, including the challenges that this community faced.
- 2 Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee — Training grounds for the Tuskegee Airmen, an all African-American flight squadron during World War II.
- 7 Freedom Riders National Monument (Anniston). Two locations important to the Civil Rights Movement: an old Greyhound Bus depot, and the site outside town where a bus was burned.
- 8 Birmingham (Alabama). The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute commemorates the Civil Rights Movement.
- 9 Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery briefly held the title of capital of the Confederacy, but is more remembered as a pivotal location during the civil rights movement, seeing the arrest of Rosa Parks and the ensuing bus boycott, as well as protests led by Martin Luther King.
- 10 Edmund Pettus Bridge (Selma (Alabama)). Site of the Bloody Sunday incident and a waypoint on the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail.
- 13 National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, 6 US Hwy. 80 East (Selma (Alabama)).
- 14 Slavery & Civil War Museum, 1410 Water Ave (Selma (Alabama)).
- 15 Old Courthouse Museum, 31 N Alabama Ave (Monroeville (Alabama)). This museum covers aspects of the story To Kill A Mockingbird and Harper Lee. In fact, the building was used in the courtroom scenes in the film adaptation, and a recurring play of the story is also presented here by local thespians.
- 16 The University of Alabama. The University of Alabama, also known as Alabama, UA, or Bama, is a public coeducational university located in Tuscaloosa. Founded in 1831, UA is the flagship campus of the University of Alabama System. Within Alabama, it is often called the Capstone. Site of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.
- 17 Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, 2332 Margaret W Alexander Dr. Displays the home of civil rights activist Medgar Evers where he was assassinated in his carport in 1963.
- 18 Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, 222 North St.. Jackson was an important scene in the Civil Rights movement of the US. This museum covers that.
- Starkville, Mississippi, the state university campus.
- 3 Tupelo National Battlefield, Tupelo — Site of a Civil War battle where Confederate forces tried to cut Union supply lines.
- 4 Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg — Site of a major Civil War battle that was the culmination of the Union's Vicksburg Campaign, which gave the Union control over the Mississippi River.
- 11 Holly Springs. Seat of Rust College.
- 19 National Civil Rights Museum (Lorraine Motel), 450 Mulberry St (Near the Amtrak station.). The museum was built out of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, and out of the boarding house across the street, from which came James Earl Ray's shot. The museum features exhibitions on the whole civil rights movement, segregation and slavery in American History from the 1800s to the 1960s including the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. amongst others in the civil rights movements.