On the Significance of the Black Belt in the Black Liberation Struggle

For the New Afrikan independence movement— a movement that calls for the liberation of Black people or New Afrikans through the construction of an independent socialist state— the region of ameriKKKa known as the “Black Belt” is traditionally considered the national territory of the captive Black nation. In other words, when New Afrikan revolutionaries say “Free the Land!” the Black Belt is the location of the land we aim to free. This fact begs the question, “What is so important about the Black Belt?” This question is crucial to identifying the way forward for people organizing for Black / New Afrikan liberation both in the ameriKKKan South and across the US empire. The ameriKKKan South once had an economy that relied entirely on the forced labor of New Afrikan slaves in the Black Belt. The Southern states have been home to the most reactionary manifestations of settler colonialism which included, but were not limited to, chattel slavery, racist pogroms, segregation, and Jim Crow laws. That said, it must be understood that the national oppression of Black people within the Southern United $tates is not a thing of the past. The goal of this essay is to elucidate the nature of the modern oppression of Black people in New Afrika’s own national territory, as knowledge of that oppression is a necessary prerequisite of a revolutionary struggle for the liberation of the Black nation.

According to a text associated with the University of Georgia’s Initiative on Poverty and the Economy, the term “Black Belt” was coined by Booker T. Washington in reference to the color of the rich soil of the South on which countless slave plantations had been built. Nowadays, the term “Black Belt” refers less to the color of the region’s soil and more to the color of the people who live there, as the Black Belt region is known for having a higher than average New Afrikan population than other regions within the United States. According to UGA’s document, the official list of states that make up the Black Belt region is as follows: “Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.”

As previously stated, the Black Belt is especially important to anti-colonial revolutionaries in the United States because it contains the land that has been designated the national territory of the New Afrikan oppressed nation that we are fighting to liberate. Comrade James Yaki Sayles, a New Afrikan revolutionary socialist and nationalist, lists the Black Belt states that constitute New Afrika’s national territory and explains the process by which Black revolutionaries came to consider these states New Afrikan territory in his essay “Free the RNA-11: Prisoners of War”. He wrote: “On March 31, 1968, 500 Black Nationalists from throughout the U.S. met in Detroit and issued a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FOR THE BLACK NATION. The subjugated Black Nation—the New Afrikan Nation—in north amerikkka dates back to the anti-black colonial laws of the 1660s. The first LAND under new Afrikan governments was in the Mississippi Valley and the South Carolina-Georgia Sea Islands during and just after the amerikkkan civil war. The 1968 Detroit Convention (1) named the nation the Republic of New Afrika; (2) designated the Five States of the Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina), as the subjugated ‘National Territory,’ and (3) created basic law and a formal, provisional government, with officials elected in Convention under a mandate to ‘Free The Land!’”

To sum all that up, the subject of our analysis in this essay is around the 11 Black Belt states of the South, with a special focus on the five states of the Deep South that make up the New Afrikan national territory as established in the 1968 Declaration of Independence for the Black Nation. 

As New Afrikans have always been subjugated, abused, and deprived by White supremacist ameriKKKa, it is no wonder that the Black Belt region— which contains the highest concentrations of the captive nation’s population— is also especially poor in comparison to the U.$. as a whole. According to the data gathered by the aforementioned UGA Initiative on Poverty and the Economy, while the national poverty rate was 12.38% in the year 2000, the Black Belt’s poverty rate was 14.06%. This data indicates that the Black Belt is one of the regions of the united $tates in which poverty is particularly intense and that the Black Belt contains a higher than average amount of people who cannot meet their basic needs than many other regions of the U.$. In total, there were 11,523,063 impoverished people living in the Black Belt when this data was recorded.

There are major differences in the material conditions affecting New Afrikans in the Black Belt and those that affect the region’s euro-ameriKKKan (White) population. When the census data cited by the aforementioned UGA initiative was taken, New Afrikans in the Black Belt had the highest poverty rate among the region’s population, which was 26.35%— over a fourth of the whole population of New Afrikans living in the region. For the sake of comparison, the Black Belt’s euro-ameriKKKan population at the time had a poverty rate of only 10.11%. Such a large difference in the size of the destitute sections of these two populations is not surprising. National oppression keeps the New Afrikan nation trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. By imperialism’s design, Black people often find it harder to get hired for jobs, harder to get a quality education, harder to avoid arbitrary imprisonment by police thugs, and harder to keep our homes out of the hands of gentrifiers. These difficulties and many others faced by New Afrikans are the manifestations of the oppression of the Black nation that result in statistics like the ones cited above. In a society built on taking from the oppressed nations, it is only natural that oppressed nationals have less.

Originally, the New Afrikan nation was much more concentrated along the Black Belt than it is today, as it was the location of many of the plantations on which New Afrikan slaves worked and the home to a great many New Afrikan sharecroppers after slavery was abolished. Today, however, a large portion of the New Afrikan population lives outside of the South. According to a document released by the U.$. Census Bureau in the year 2000, some midwestern states like Illinois have sizeable New Afrikan populations in comparison to many of their Southern counterparts. In the year the census was taken, Detroit, Michigan, a city that is pretty far north of the Mason-Dixon line, housed a larger New Afrikan population than any one city along the Black Belt! The tragic answer to the question of why the Black population has become spread out so far from the New Afrikan national territory in the Deep South can be found in the following excerpts from the text Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by the communist revolutionary author and people’s historian, J. Sakai, who prefaced his answer to that question with the following much-needed background information: “The Afrikan proletariat had stood up, particularly in the South, and had spear-headed new industrial unionism campaigns (with or without the alliances with white workers). On the plantations the masses were starting to organize. Spontaneous resistance to the settler-colonial occupation was breaking out. The most politically conscious of all these were becoming communists, with Afrikan communism rapidly growing and taking on its vanguard role. Thousands of Afrikans stepped forward in those years to commit themselves to armed revolution, self-government through independence for the Afrikan Nation, and socialism. This was a program that had won respect amongst Afrikan people, particularly in the South.”

J. Sakai starts us off by describing the revolutionary situation that was brewing in the ameriKKKan South in the early 20th century. New Afrikan sharecroppers had initiated a bitter struggle against both their parasitic landlords and the national oppression of the captive Black nation. Many of these brave rebels turned into conscious New Afrikan communist revolutionaries who sought to liberate the Black nation through armed struggle against the ameriKKKan settler state. This worried the ruling class and their lackeys, who had always been afraid of communism and afraid of Black people, but never imagined that they would have to deal with Black communists! Needless to say, while they were shaking in their boots, they decided to take action, and employed a little strategy called “population regroupment.”  Later in his book, regarding that strategy and the manner in which it was used on New Afrikans, J. Sakai wrote the following: “In Mao Zedong’s famous analogy, the guerrillas in People’s War are ‘fish’ while the masses are the ‘sea’ that both sustains and conceals them. Population regroupment (in the C.I.A.’s terminology) strategy seeks to dry up that ‘sea’ by literally uprooting the masses and disrupting the whole social fabric of the oppressed nation. In Vietnam, the strategy resulted in the widespread chemical poisoning of crops and forest land, the depopulation of key areas, and the involuntary movement of one-third of the total South Vietnamese population off their lands to ‘protected hamlets’ and ‘refugee centers’ (i.e. the C.I.A.’s reservations for Vietnamese). These blows only show how great an effort, what magnitude of resources, is expended on imperialist counter-insurgency.

In response to growing political unrest, the U.S. Empire moved inexorably to drive Afrikans off the land, out of industry, and force them into exile. (…)The New Deal’s 1934 Agricultural Adjustment Act rescued the ruined planter capitalists, giving them cash subsidies so that they could hold on to the land and continue serving as U.S. imperialism’s overseers in the Afrikan South.* But those U.S. imperialist subsidies literally gave the planters cash for each sharecropper and tenant farmer they forced off the plantation. The primary effect, then, was to forcibly de-stabilize and eventually depopulate the rural Afrikan communities.”

According to J. Sakai, the reason why the Black population is no longer as concentrated in and around New Afrika’s national territory as it was in the past is that the U.$. government felt threatened by Black sharecroppers’ resistance to subjugation by the ameriKKKan empire and decided to pay white landlords to force the Black people they were exploiting off their land en masse. In Sakai’s words: “the Afrikan masses were involuntarily dispersed, scattered into the refugee camps of the Northern ghettoes, removed from established positions in industries and trades that were an irreplaceable part of the modern Nation.”

The ameriKKKan government’s usage of the strategy of population regroupment is the reason why we’ve got hoods up north, hoods in the west, hoods in the east, and hoods in the South. In essence, population regroupment has created a Black diaspora within a Black diaspora. That just goes to show you, forcibly moving people around is the oldest trick in the imperialist book.

Unfortunately for the imperialists, however, the masses of people can move by themselves too. According to an article written by Tanasia Kenney for the local New Afrikan newspaper Atlanta Black Star, there is evidence to suggest that Black people are actually migrating back to the land that our ancestors toiled on and struggled for. In many cities up North, the percentages of the total population made up by New Afrikans seem to be declining. For example, Detroit, which we previously established was at one point the city with the largest population of New Afrikans in ameriKKKa, saw its New Afrikan population dip from 82% in 2010 to 79% just six years later! Ms. Kinney’s article also describes a “dramatic” drop in the Black population of Chicago, Illinois, that was large enough to threaten Chicago’s position as the third-largest city in ameriKKKa. The state isn’t forcing New Afrikans to relocate this time around, but such mass emigrations of Black people aren’t exactly voluntary either. Capitalist crisis in the form of economic recession and the gentrification of New Afrikan hoods by settler yuppies has forced many Black people to pack up their things and look for new homes and jobs down South. Ms. Kinney ends her article with a description of the rapid population growth that is occurring in Atlanta, suggesting that it is right here in the so-called “Black Mecca” of the Black Belt that much of the mass exodus of Black people from elsewhere in the U.$. winds up. From the Belt we came, and to the Belt we shall return. There really is no place like home. 

Whether the trend of the mass migration of New Afrikans back to our national territory continues or not, the Black Belt region in which that territory exists will remain a crucial battleground of the struggle for the liberation of the Black nation. According to the U.S. Census document mentioned a while back, 54% of the New Afrikan population lives in the ameriKKKan South. According to that same document, the New Afrikan population of the Black Belt states (minus Arkansas technically), make up 47% of the entirety of ameriKKKa’s New Afrikan population. In other words, the Black masses may not be as heavily concentrated around the New Afrikan national territory as they were in the ‘30s prior to the regroupment of the nation’s population, but the imperialists never managed to fully destroy the mass base of the Black revolution that exists in the South. To this day, most New Afrikans still live on the very land that our forefathers slaved over, yearning for the ever-approaching day in which we may avenge our ancestors, and take back the land that was developed with their labor, so that we as a people may finally be able to determine our own destinies.

Free the Land!

By Marte White

About Community Movement Builders (159 Articles)
Community Movement Builders (CMB) is a member-based collective of black people dedicated to being a force for creating sustainable self-determining communities through cooperative economic advancement and collective community organizing. Our mission is rooted in Black love and equity. Grassroots Thinking is our newsletter/community blog about our work and movement activity

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