Alabama’s Black Belt stretches in a strip 25 miles wide across the center of the state. Named for the rich soil that enabled cotton to flourish, the Black Belt was once Alabama’s most prosperous and politically powerful region. It held most of the state’s enslaved people, and African Americans still comprise the majority of the Black Belt population today.
“New Stewards on Old Homesteads in Alabama” provides a contemporary look at Black Belt land and its stewards: the most recent chapter in a long history of transformation. Younger generations are now returning to family land in the Black Belt, often to find it reclaimed by wilderness. We learn how they strive to make a living from the land and the challenges faced in a rural food system. We consider opposing notions of agricultural life: one that inflicts trauma, and one that heals from it. Andrew Williams of the Deep South Food Alliance in Linden and Yawah Awolowo of Mahala Farms in Cuba are our guides.
This batch of Gravy is reported and produced by Jackie Clay, Executive Director at the Coleman Center for the Arts in rural Sumter County, Alabama; Matt Whitson; an award-winning production audio mixer and video editor at Alabama Public Television in Birmingham, Alabama; and Emily Blejwas, Executive Director of the Alabama Folklife Association and author of The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods (UA Press).
Above: Yawah Awolowo with her daughter and granddaughter.