Via Matthew Yglesias and Edge of the West
is a map showing the prevalence of slavery in the Southern states in 1861. (Click on the link for a larger version.)
What I found fascinating was that -- notwithstanding the Great Migrations
of the 20th century -- the map very closely mirrors where blacks tend to live today. Here is a map based on the 1990 census (click for a much larger image):
A map based on the 2000 census is here
The similarities are obvious just by considering the fact that both in 1861 and today, most blacks lived in the Black Belt and especially in the Delta region of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Also notable are the absences of blacks in the northern mountainous regions of Arkansas, and of Georgia up through Appalachia. Fewer blacks lived in the coastal regions of Mississippi and Alabama.
Then if you compare the maps more closely, even more similarities jump out. For example, both in 1861 and today, hardly any blacks lived in Livingston Parish, Louisiana
, especially compared to the surrounding counties. For another example, there is a pocket of three mostly white counties north of Birmingham, and then higher concentrations of black people in a stripe of countries stretching from northern Alabama through Nashville. In Florida, the highest concentrations of blacks are consistently found in Leon County and a few surrounding counties in the panhandle.
Much about America has changed in the past 150 years, but there are still underlying similarities that show up in surprising ways.
P.S. Although this 1950 map isn't very legible, I think it shows most of the same similarities:
UPDATE: I wonder how much of this is related to the existence of sundown towns
in largely white areas. As author James Loewen points out
, "Most Americans have no idea such towns or counties exist, or they think such things happened mainly in the Deep South. Ironically, the traditional South has almost no sundown towns." It actually doesn't seem so ironic to me: Areas that traditionally had slavery and where upwards of 50% of the population was black would have had a very hard time keeping blacks completely out. Indeed, given that so many blacks today live in areas where slavery was once practiced, by definition they could not have been expelled in most of those places.
Instead, most sundown towns were in historically white areas both in the North and in white areas of slave states. For example, all of the sundown towns
in Arkansas, so far as I can tell, were in areas that hardly had any slavery. Their racism arose from the fear of the unknown
, I'd guess.
Anyway, because of the prevalence of sundown towns, blacks would have had a hard time moving to many locations outside of the traditional areas that had practiced slavery.