Working the Land: Rural Life, Rural Heritage

Dynamic River Roads

During the early years of cotton production in the Black Belt, flat botton boats, each carrying up to 100 bales of cotton, floated downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, powered by the current. Often after a downstream trip, these boats were dismantled and the lunber sold, leaving the crew to walk home.

Experiments and Innovations in Work and Education

Legacy of Slavery

When settlers came to the Black Belt to farm the rich soil, they brought with them enslaved workers. Slaves first arrived in what would become the United States in 1619. Virginia planters needed laborers to grow, harvest, and cure tobacca. The planters first attempted to enslave Native Americans, but many natives died as a result of a lack of immunity to the settlers' diseases. The planters turned to importing enslaved Africans to work their large tracts of land.

The Cotton Kingdom Era

The Black Belt's economics, political, and culture have been shaped by its thick, dark soil. The discovery of this area occurred in tandem with a meteoric rise in the demand for cotton that began around 1800. Settlers quickly found that the soil was extremely fertile and ideal for cotton planting, and "Alabama Fever" set in. It was one of the first great American land booms, virtually unrivaled until the California Gold Rush more than a century later.

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