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Empowering the Disempowered through Civil Rights Geographic Information Systems: The Case of Black Belt Region of Alabama

Environment, Politics, and Society

ISBN: 978-1-78714-776-8, eISBN: 978-1-78714-775-1

Publication date: 2 May 2018


This research underlines the usefulness of Civil Rights Geographic Information Systems (CR-GIS) for understanding the social struggles and assessing the critical needs of the disempowered population of Alabama’s “Black Belt.” The social struggles have been persistent for decades in the Southern states, particularly in Alabama. Researchers have recognized the political and historical root causes and implications for these social struggles. The geographic region of Alabama’s Black Belt is significant because it became the epicenter of the Civil Rights struggle and still represents the vestiges of the social policy known as “Jim Crow.”

Although GIS has a great potential to explore social and political struggles, currently, it is not profoundly associated with Civil Rights studies. This research employs CR-GIS to illustrate the impact of the disfranchisement caused by biased geopolitics in three selected cases/issues: (1) gerrymandering and voting rights, (2) transportation, and (3) poverty in the State of Alabama. While there has been some progress in overcoming the social struggles in the Black Belt, there is a need for qualitative and quantitative analyses to understand persistent social, economic, and Civil Rights struggles in the region. GIS could be a valuable tool to understand and explore the social struggles in the disempowered communities of the “Black Belt” in Alabama. By incorporating the existing information and conducting ground truth studies, this research will lay the basic foundation for extended research by creating a policy template for empowering the disempowered for better social, economic, and political integration in the “Black Belt region.”



Alagan, R., White, R.O. and Aladuwaka, S. (2018), "Empowering the Disempowered through Civil Rights Geographic Information Systems: The Case of Black Belt Region of Alabama", Environment, Politics, and Society (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 45-74.



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