This Will Make You Look at the World in a New Way

I found this over on the Book of Face and went, “Whoa!”. Just a reminder that Everything is Connected–as firmly an orthodox and Catholic conviction in the bone as the dogma of the Trinity, and for the same reason:

If (like me) you enjoy looking at maps, you might sometimes wonder why a map looks the way it does. The events leading to a certain demographic being more common here, or a border being drawn there, can often be very complex, and fascinating. Here I’ve gathered 6 maps of the US state of Alabama. Together, these maps tell a story that links a coastline from the time of the dinosaurs, to modern political demographics, via one of the darkest periods of American history.

Map 1 shows us the Cretaceous sediments of Alabama. These sediments are rocks and minerals laid down along the swampy southern coast of the continent of Appalachia, which existed around 100 million years ago. North America had not yet formed at this time.

Map 2 shows the location of Blackland Prairie soil. This soil is known for its high fertility, as a result of the nutrients deposited during the Cretaceous period.

Map 3 shows us modern farm sizes in Alabama. The largest farms (shown in red) can be found in areas with the most fertile soil. This shows us how economically important Blackland Prairie soil is.

Map 4 shows slave populations according to the 1860 census. At that time, slaves accounted for 45% of the state’s population. Only 3% of the state population was made up of free Black citizens. In the darkest regions of the map, enslaved people accounted for over 80% of the population. Slaves mainly worked on cotton plantations, and these plantations were most common in the areas with the most fertile soil.

Map 5 shows us the modern Black population of Alabama. The darkest red areas show more than 44% of the population of the region is Black. Despite the 150 years between these maps, these is still a close correlation between the historic slave populations, and the modern Black populations.

And finally map 6 shows us the results of the 2020 election. Areas with large Black populations are much more likely to vote for the Democratic party (shown in blue). This trend continues to the east and west of Alabama, along the so called “Black Belt” of the southern USA, and along the buried coastline of the Cretaceous continent of Appalachia.

When we look at maps and data about the modern world, it’s easy to forget that everything about our world has been dictated and shaped by the events of history, and prehistory. From ancient continents to terrible atrocities, our world is a product of its past, and understanding that past can be key to helping us better understand the present.


6 Responses

  1. Those maps are fascinating. One that never fails to amaze me is an overlay of Western Europe and the USA, by actual latitude. If it wasn’t for the Gulf Stream, I’d be living a place similar to Edmonton, Alberta instead of let’s say Baltimore. Brrrrrrr.

      1. Well that’s cheery.

        We had a balmy day in San Francisco on December first–warmest day on record. T-shirt and shorts weather. Southern CA? We call it Mexico now. The weeks before Thanksgiving were beach days–80s. The lake in front of our house used to have giant catfish, frogs, turtles, crayfish etc. Now it’s just a dust bowl. I’ll never forget that pungent summer when the fish died, and then the swarms of flies that feasted. 🙁

        Some would say the weather is magical there because it’s almost perfect, but hundreds of days of sun gets monotonous. I prefer the rain of Northern CA, and the scent of the forest.

    1. Fascinating and perplexing as the weather in Europe in so much milder than our weather. Paris the same latitude as North Dakota? London north of Calgary? The distances too are interesting. Friends in Germany find our distances and our seemingly infinite empty spaces mind-boggling.

      1. @Towa1

        Not just mindboggling, but spiritual. I will always cherish the time that I spent driving from Washington DC to LA, all the way through the South and SW (New Mexico is my favourite). There is something about an American sense of space that lifts the spirit. But then again, I think some Americans experience more or less the same thing with time in European cities, sometimes with a history spanning two millennia.

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