Policy Analysis | February 2014

The "Black Belt"

Jonathan Watts Hull

The Black Belt is a string of counties that stretches from east Texas, through the deep South, and up into eastern Virginia. It is the largest, poorest, most rural region in the country. While definitions vary, the region typically is considered to encompass upwards of 623 counties across 11 states, mostly rural, crossing several smaller regions, including parts of the Mississippi Delta, Coastal Plain, and the Piedmont. The Black Belt is not a contiguous region, with small breaks scattered intermittently. It is this geographic irregularity that has, in many ways, hindered the development of a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges in the region as well as the development of a regional identity, such as those that helped to steer resources to the Appalachians and the Mississippi Delta. For further information, see the 2009 SLC Regional Resource, Capital Access in the Black Belt.

Black Belt Counties in the SLC Member States

(click on headers to sort by column)

State Black Belt Counties Total Counties Percent Black Belt
Alabama 49 67 73.1%
Arkansas 33 75 44.0%
Florida 36 67 53.7%
Georgia 118 159 74.2%
Louisiana 59 64 92.2%
Mississippi 75 82 91.5%
North Carolina 64 100 64.0%
South Carolina 43 46 93.5%
Tennessee 16 95 16.8%
Texas 56 254 22.0%
Virginia 74 95 77.9%
Total 623 1104 56.4%

Source: Ronald C. Wimberley, Libby V. Morris, and Donald P. Woolley, The Black Belt Databook, June 2001, Contractor Paper 01-11 (accessed January 16, 2014)