The Southern Black Belt has been variously defined in character and geographic extent. In the nineteenth century settlement focused upon the region’s rich dark soils for which it was originally named. The Black Belt became the site of the South’s Antebellum plantation-cotton-slave complex. Today many of the counties in the region have large African American populations and are more noted for their lack of economic opportunities than the fertility of their soils. As a result, the Black Belt region is now more commonly defined on demographic and economic factors than soil. Using principal components analysis, this study attempts to define quantitatively the county membership of the Alabama and Georgia Black Belts based upon a set of criteria commonly associated with the character of the Black Belt. It finds the Alabama Black Belt has greater uniformity of character than the Georgia Black Belt, and that growing urbanization has brought economic opportunities to some portions of the region.


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pp. 3-18
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