Take a look at the picture above. It’s from a long time ago. A very long time ago. A time nearly 100 million years ago when the oceans covered portions of North America. Pay extra attention to the coast line that runs through modern day Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Now consider this:
The Deep South had a shoreline that curled through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and there, in the shallow waters just offshore, were immense populations of floating, single-celled creatures who drifted about, trapped sunshine, captured carbon, then died and sank to the sea bottom. Those creatures became long stretches of nutritious chalk. (I love chalk.) When sea levels dropped and North America took on its modern shape, those ancient beaches — so alkaline, porous and rich with organic material — became a “black belt” of rich soil, running right through the South.
And because this stretch was so rich and fertile, when cotton farmers moved here in the 19th century, this stretch produced the most cotton per acre. Harvests of 4,000-plus bales were common here. Notice that the most productive plantations mirror the ancient coastline.
Then came slavery.
McClain, quoting from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, points out: “The part of the country possessing this thick, dark and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers.” After the Civil War, a lot of former slaves stayed on this land, and while many migrated North, their families are still there.
Take a look at voting by county in 2008:
Go read the whole thing.