In June, The Center for American Progress and the Southern Elections Foundation released the report True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer. The report’s author is Ben Jealous, former leader of the NAACP.
While the report is not exactly beach reading, I recommend spending some time at least with the early pages of True South, which provide a brief but solid socio-political history of the Black Belt. This history has to be understood if people want to get anything out of the current commemorations of 1964’s Freedom Summer in Mississippi and the upcoming celebrations of 1965’s Selma-to-Montgomery March in Alabama. Other than that look back, the report deals with important modern subjects, such as the Deep South’s changing racial demographics, the potential power of the youth vote, and the region’s long-term failure to address women’s issues, all of which could affect the Deep South’s political future.
*As a side note, I don’t agree with the report’s definition of the Black Belt, especially the map on page 5 that basically makes “the Deep South” and the “the Black Belt” synonymous. Personally, I’ve always understood the Black Belt to be a crescent of land that encompasses western and central Alabama and eastern Mississippi. (See the Southern Spaces website’s explanation of the region.) If you ask me, this report is not so much about the Black Belt, but about the Deep South with some forays into the larger South.