The term belt suggests a region with a distinctive cultural characteristic. Thus: Bible Belt—that area of the South and southern Midwest noted for Christian fundamentalism. Black Belt—often used to refer to a region of rich farmland in the South, but at the turn of the twentieth century African American leader Booker T. Washington popularized the term to distinguish areas in the Deep South where the majority of black Americans resided. (When many African Americans were fleeing to the North to escape the injustices of southern racism and legalized segrega-tion, Washington believed they should remain in the South and construct a separate black nation.) Farm Belt—once called the “bread-basket of the nation,” a vast area of deep, fertile soil spread over parts of fourteen states, mostly in the Midwest, stretching as far north as Minnesota and as far west as the Dakotas, that remains the agricultural center of the United States. Iron Belt—an area generally identified with northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula, which between 1855 and 1900 replaced the East as the nation’s center for the mining of iron ore and the manufacturing of steel after rich iron ore deposits were discovered in the Lake Superior region and neighboring areas.

Jeffery Renard Allen

A hundred miles west and one would be out of the “Bible Belt,” that gospel-haunted strip of American territory in which a man must, if only for business reasons, take his religion with the straightest of faces

— Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

More from Jeffery Renard Allen

» see all 19

Related entries