America's Third World: The Forgotten Deep South


THE CRISIS: Grinding Poverty in the Deep South

Here in the Deep South, American citizens suffer from the worst poverty you’ve never seen. Children beg their mothers for food and cry themselves to sleep with aches where their nutrition should be. The working poor pray their next day’s labor won’t be interrupted by dizziness from lack of food. People live in shacks with large holes in the roofs and floors covered only by plastic and paper. Others live in the streets and have no protection from the weather. Thousands suffer from extreme poverty as if living in a third world country.

Alabama's Black Belt Region: Cause and Impact of Poverty

The diverse and problematic issues that created this ongoing generational and situational poverty in the Black Belt region of the Deep South are numerous. Alabama’s Black Belt Region, named for the region’s agricultural heritage and rich, black top soil, was a flourishing region in the 1800’s. For hundreds of years this soil supported the cotton industry that brought money, power, slaves, and, later poor black sharecroppers to the area. The region was one of the wealthiest and most politically powerful regions in the United States. Its commerce elevated Alabama cities like Montgomery, Selma, and Demopolis into some of the most affluent towns in the nation.

Then, in 1910, the descent into darkness and poverty began when a devastating boil weevil infestation wrought havoc on Alabama’s cotton industry. This led to a deep level of poverty worsened by vicious, violent and institutionalized racism and discrimination. Locals thought it couldn’t get any worse but in 1978 the announcement came that Craig Air Force Base, the areas cornerstone employer, was closing. This created a ripple effect throughout the region leading to the closing of numerous businesses, retailers, restaurants and professional service providers.

The region has never recovered and continues to lag behind even Alabama’s notably poor ranking as the seventh poorest state in the country.

The Numbers

(For the Alabama counties of Butler, Dallas, Lowndes, Monroe, Perry and Wilcox):
Overall Population in Poverty: 30.65%
Children in Poverty (under age 18): 46.6%
Adults over 65 in Poverty: 19.73%

(For the City of Selma):
  • 43.5% of population lives in poverty
  • More than half of the potential workforce lives below the poverty line
  • Only two thirds of students graduate from high school
  • 14.1% unemployment rate
  • 28.8% suffer from food insecurity
  • 70% of school aged-children live in single parent homes
About Our Clients

-Annual household income: $14,261.29
- Single Parent Household: 81.07%
- Uninsured: 84.92%
- Age Breakdown:

  • Under 18 - 1.23%
  • 18-24 - 0.41%
  • 25-34 - 5.76%
  • 35-44 - 14.40%
  • 45-64 - 64.61%
  • 65+ - 13.58%

- Unemployment: 69.96%