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Abstract

Recent legislation by the U.S. Congress authorized a federal regional commission for the Black Belt South. Three southern social scientists first proposed the commission at Tuskegee University’s Professional Agricultural Workers Conference in 1990. Following congressional seminars on the Black Belt by Ronald Wimberley and Libby Morris, the first legislation for the commission was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994. After a succession of 12 U.S. House and Senate Bills, Congress finally authorized “the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission” in 2008 with support by various, and sometimes competing, groups. This paper traces and updates the chronology of sociological research, university initiatives, grassroots support, and policy efforts involved in establishing the Commission. Suggestions are offered for improving the Commission and the types of programs the Commission may use to improve the historic and contemporary poor quality of life in the Southern Black Belt.