Visions of the Black BeltBy Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burns
In Visions of the Black Belts, Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burne offer a richly illustrated tour of the Black Belt, the fertile arc that represents the cultural efflorescence of Alabama's heartland. Like knowledgeable friends, McDonald and Burnes guide readers through the Black Belt's towns and architecture and introduce the region's great panoply of citizens, farmers, craftspeople, cooks, writers, and musicians. A constellation of Black Belt towns arose during Alabama's territorial decades, communities like Selma, Camden, Eutaw, Tuskegee, Greenville, and many more. Visions of the Black Belts recounts their stories and others, such as Demopolis's founding by exiles from Napoleon's France. As an escarpment of clouds scuds across an indigo sky, the ruins of Alabama's lost capital of Cahaba reveal the secrets of its lost squares. Also on this picturesque tour are the Black Belt's homes, from artless cabins wreathed in fern to ozymandian manses wrapped by stately columns, such as Kirkwood and Reverie. Among the emblematic houses of worship lovingly photographed in Visions of the Black Belts is Prairieville's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, noted for its "carpenter gothic" style. Also reflecting the region's history of faith are poignant graveyards such as Greenville's Pioneer Cemetery with its homespun memorials of seashell-and-concrete and the elegant marbles clad in ebon lichen of Selma's Live Oak Cemetery. In photos and text, McDonald and Burnes bring to life the layers of history that shaped the Black Belt's tastes, sounds, and colors. Their gastronomic discoveries include the picant crawfish of the Faunsdale Bar & Grill and GainesRidge Dining Club's famed Black Bottom pie. They bring the sounds of the Black Belt to life by presenting a wide range of musicians and musical events, from bona fide blues and soul masters to Eutaw's Black Belt Roots Festival. Including two maps and more than 370 full-color photographs, Visions of the Black Belts offers a timeless message of faith, determination, and the rich simplicity of living in harmony with the rhythms of the land and nature.