Soil, Slavery, and a Blue North Carolina
I emailed this to a friend to supplement my own theories about why NC voted for Obama this month. A lot of blue NC counties directly correlate to the big cities:
Wake County = Raleigh
Orange = Chapel Hill
Chatham = Carrboro
Guilford = Greensboro
Forsyth = Winston-Salem
Mecklenberg = Charlotte
But I couldn’t explain the pockets of blue in the north and south of the state.
Dear Gawd, maybe this does:
Along the ancient coastline, life thrived, as usually does. It especially thrived in the delta region, the Bay of Tennessee, if you will. Here life reproduced, ate, excreted, lived, and died. On the shallow ocean floor, organic debris settled, slowly building a rich layer of nutritious debris. Eventually, the debris would rise as the sea departed, becoming a thick, rich layer of soil that ran from Louisiana to South Carolina.
65 million years later, European settlers in America would discover this soil, which was perfect for growing cotton. They settled the land, and built plantations, importing slave labor from Africa to toil the fields, while the settlers reaped the profits. Though they did not know it, they built their plantations on the floor of the ancient seas.
It was a reasonably successful endeavor from the slaveholders’ perspective, surviving hundreds of years. It took a civil war to free the slaves from bondage, if only technically; during reconstruction, many of the slaves were given the proverbial 40 acres and a mule, and encouraged to remain on the land, farming, but this time for themselves — at least in theory.
Many of the slaves took that deal, and stayed along this rural belt in the south. While in the north, rural America was becoming a land of sundown towns, in the south, the racism was universal; there was not the same exodus of African Americans into the urban centers as was forced in the North. The population of these rural counties remained largely African American for well over a century; indeed, it remains so to this day. Today, it’s referred to as the “Black Belt,” a set of counties stretching from Louisiana to South Carolina, one that, as has been noted, voted for Barack Obama on Election Day.
(As seen on Sociological Images)