To date, much of the architectural research in the Black Belt has focused on antebellum history and architecture of the region, which was influences by the plantation culture that flourished until the latter part of the nineteenth century. The architecture that grew out of this plantation culture produced some of the finest churches and rural residences in the state, including Rosemount and Thornhill in Greene, Countryside in Camden, and Gaineswood in Demopolis.

Most of these fine architectural examples from antebellum Alabama are the work of slaves and stand today as lasting monuments to their skill and creativity. At that time, the Black Belt region was the richest area of the state. Because of this regional wealth, one can find some of the most outstanding collection of rural small town architecture in the state. Comparatively, the historic architecture found in the Black Belt ranks with the plantation architecture found int he low country of South Carolina and the Mississippi Valley. 

The Black Belt in nineteenth century Alabama is to southern culture what the lower Chesapeake and James River are to eighteenth century tobacco plantation culture. It strongly reflectd the immigration patterns of the early settlerd who came to Alabama from South Carolina, Virginia, and southern Maryland, and recreated in the Black Belt the general plantation settings they left behind on the Atlantic seaboard. Nowhere else in Alabama and in other southern states, other than in the lower Mississippi Valley, is there such a strong architectural imprint of this southern plantation culture.

In the Black Belt region, one can find the extremes of architecture- fine mansions and modest houses- but not a lot in between. The architecture reflects a very distinct breakdown of race and class. It symbolically represents the social hierarchy that existed, which included a concentrated elite class of whites, and fairly weak white middle class and an African American working class.

Prior to 1850, a shortage of skilled craftsman and building materials, compounded by the belated development of Alabama's railway system, contributed to the isolation of communities, which created architectural folkways. This folk architecture conjures images more firmly grounded in custom and practicality than in any concern for fashion. By 1860, the railroad connected Alabama to the outside, which contributed to the demise of architectural folkways in Alabama, and led to the influence of current Black Belt architecture.

During the late 1880s and early 1900s, the textile industry spurred the growth of such towns as Selma, Uniontown, and Monroeville. Today, the architecture found in these areas is vestiges of this manufacturing culture. The architecture in the Black Belt is not just aesthetic, but also has a story to tell, especially in the twentieth centruy when the buildings reflected the segreated society that enveloped the region, including such community institutions as schools and, to a lesser degree, churches.