Discovering the Culture of Alabama’s Black Belt Region

Livingston and Sumter County are part of Alabama’s Black Belt Region—an area names for its rich soil and honored for its rich culture.

The Black Belt encompasses between 12 and 23 counties (depending on context) that cross the state in central and southern Alabama. Named for its dark, rich soils, Alabama’s Black Belt is part of a larger, crescent-shaped area called the Southern Black Belt, which spans from Maryland to Texas.

Widely known for its hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities, Alabama’s Black Belt is also the site of several key civil rights events that had a profound and lasting effect on the United States.

It is said that the Black Belt of Alabama is one of the last places where you can experience the “true South.” The region features historical sites, natural wonders and cultural destinations that are key to telling its treasured stories.

Alabama’s Black Belt by the numbers:

  • There are 53 historic districts in the Black Belt listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including river and agrarian towns that gave rise to the cotton industry and that served as sites supporting racial equality.
  • The Black Belt has 26 churches and three cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Black Belt is home to 10 National Historic Landmarks honored for their significance to American history.
  • There are 304 sites in the Black Belt listed on the National Register of Historic Places including districts, sites, buildings and objects.
  • The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery in the Black Belt Region appears with two other Alabama churches on the United States World Heritage Tentative List for the possibility of being placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The list recognizes the most significant cultural sites and buildings in the world.

Here are a few featured attractions on the Alabama Black Belt in Sumter and its surrounding counties:

  • Chickasaw State Park, Marengo County: A 520-acre roadside park on U.S. 43 in rural Marengo County featuring modern campsites, a wading pool, rental pavilions, playground equipment and green space.
  • David K. Nelson Wildlife Management Area, Sumter, Hale, Marengo and Greene Counties: Ideal for hunting waterfowl, big and small game, this area encompasses more than 8,000 acres in the Black Belt region.
  • Coleman Center for Arts and Culture, Sumter County: A hub for the arts in the Black Belt region since the 1980s, Coleman Center for Arts and Culture holds exhibitions, hosts workshops and sponsors local festivals and events.
  • Montgomery (Snagboat), Pickens County: A steam-propelled sternwheel snagboat that is one of a few surviving steam-powered sternwheelers in the country. These boats cleared drivers of obstructions, opening access to new opportunities for navigation. Montgomery played a major role in the building of the Alabama-Tombigbee-Tennessee River Project.
  • StoryTree Company, Greene County: Develops original works of art for children and adults to promote a multicultural world perspective.
  • The Rural Heritage Center, Marengo County: Upholds a mission to protect Alabama’s rural heritage. The center includes a folk art gallery, gift shop featuring Alabama hand-made items, state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, vegetable cleaning room, restaurant, outdoor space and meeting and office space.
  • Sucarnochee Revue, Sumter County: A radio program featuring musical and literary artists from the Black Belt. It serves to introduce listeners to the musical and artistic talents of artists from the Black belt area.
  • Moundville Archaeological Site, Hale County: Dating back to the 10th century, Moundville overlooks the Black Warrior River and features 34 mounds—the largest mound measuring 58 feet tall. At its highest population, Moundville was a 300-acre village housing a population of about 1,000—with a total of 10,000 in the valley as a whole.
  • Gaineswood, Marengo County: One of America’s most unusual neoclassical Greek Revival-style mansions dating back to 1842. The mansion’s architectural style represents a preferential shift in America from Greek-Revival to Italianate.
  • Alabama Black Belt Adventures: A non-profit organization that promotes recreation and tourism opportunities in 23 counties in the Black Belt region. Opportunities include hunting and fishing, golf, canoeing, whitewater rafting, birdwatching, zip lining, biking, hiking, shooting sports and road trips.

As you can see, there is no shortage of cultural activities and historic attractions in Alabama’s Black Belt. Plan a Saturday outing to one of these places, or a full-on road trip across the region!

Continue to follow UWA Online’s Continuing Education blog for more information on Livingston, Sumter County and the surrounding area.

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