• strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_node_status::operator_form() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::operator_form(&$form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/node/views_handler_filter_node_status.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.

Restoration of the Cultural Landscape

Rich in soil, once-rich in cotton wealth, and rich in history, the Black Belt has many stories to tell, stories that are rooted in the fine weave of land, building, and traditions. The story of revitalization and renewal reflects the deep attachment Black Belt people hold for their home. Since the early decade of the twentieth century, Black Belt residents have worked to preserve their home and heritage-work that included antebellum homes, churches, and museums commemorating the regional and national heroes.

During the past half century, a national preservation movement helped people in the Black Belt to expand the work of protecting, restoring, and interpreting historic and cultural places to include the full range of Black Belt experiences: early pioneer roadways, small towns, commerical buildings, Victorian houses and churches, bungalows, gas stations, the farmsteads of freed African American slaves, World War I and II sites, and more recently, the structures and landscapes of the mid-twentieth century civil rights movements.

Stories of cultural restoration dot the landscape of the Black Belt. Across the region, residents are preserving what makes the region unique. In Macon County, a local group is using an early twentieth century African American school as a community center. Energized women in Marion are reviving historical storefront buildings around the courthouse square for new local businesses. In small rural villages such as Lowndesboro, Pine Apple, and Furman, proud owners are maintaining and restoring homes and distinctive landscapes features such as well houses, outbuildings, and fences.

In Gainesvile, an 1830's Greek Revial bank building that had been moved to Tuscaloosa in the 1980s is returning to its original site for use as a visitor center. A first-class renovation is underway of the 1939 Jones Archeological Museum, which tells the story of Moundville, North America's largest pre-Columbian city. In the small town of York, an arts center and surrounding artists' workshops are reviving the downtown. In Selma, the renovated St. James Hotel, one of the last Deep South antebellum river hotels, offeres river views, great service, and exceptional food. Cities, such as Demopolis, have turned storefronts into libraries, a firehouse into a community center, and hold plays in old school auditoriums.

Small town movie palaces are being adapted for new uses and are making a comeback in towns like Greenville. State-owned landmark mansions, such as Gaineswood and Magnolia Grove, are fresh with new paint, structural repairs, and new interpretations. Two major museums have received additional funds to document and commemorate the twentieth century struggle by Afrcan Americans to win full citizenship. Moton Field, where the famed Tuskegee Airmen learned to fly, is being restored to its World War II appearance and host annual fly-ins. Is Lowndes County, the Lowndes County Interpretive Center tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. That stretch of U.S. Highway 80 is now an All-American Road and a National Scenic Byway, and current efforts are underway to document and protect the rural landscape along the route.

This resurgence that seeks to tell the full story has had many partners: state and federal agencies, and non-profit groups, academic programs from state universities, and generous donors and foundations. But the underlying drive for renewal has come from Black Belt residents who value places for their economic and social uses, and as touchstones for the lives of current and future generations.