Black Belt moniker gets clarified

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, March 13, 2010

I made a discovery last week, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person with the misconception about this.

Until last week, I had no idea that the reason our area is called the Black Belt is because of the rich soil of the land.

I was under the impression it related more to the skin tone of the people in this area, because I mostly heard the term referencing the people of the Black Belt.

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Organization leaders I have interviewed have mentioned time and time again about needing to help the poor people of the Black Belt.

I learned statistics like nine out of 10 of the poorest counties in Alabama are in the Black Belt, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Within this reference — and no one to set me straight — I had no reason to ever think it related to the soil.

Then, during Jubilee, I watched the documentary “45 Years Across the Bridge: Untold Stories, Unfinished Business.” In an aside, the narrator mentioned the regional name was in relation to the ground. Of all the statements of the documentary, I was most shocked by that. I just had no idea.

Let me set the record straight for anyone else that may have assumed incorrectly, as I did.

The Black Belt region stretches from Texas to Maryland along the southern part of the United States. The phrase refers to the think layer of dark, rich topsoil, soil thought to date back to the Cretaceous Period.

This unique soil makes our area special.

Commissioner of Conservation Barnett Lawley believes that the soil creates more than suitable resources for our area, according to the Montgomery Business Journal.

“There are no shortage of natural resources and outdoor opportunities within the Black Belt,” Lawley said. “The resources are continually flourishing because of the soil. There is no other place in the world that has the rich nutrients that this soil produces every year.”

It seems like a silly misunderstanding, but now you won’t make the same mistake either. Now you know.

Laura Fenton is the education reporter for the Selma Times-Journal. She can be contacted at