Friends, I can promise you, after a trip to the Black Belt Region of Alabama, you’ll be humming “Sweet Home Alabama” on repeat. Will and I were flattered to be invited to explore this fascinating area in Alabama. All the ingredients of a fantastic Road Trip were included: Amazing Food, Lovely Historic Homes, Important American History, and the absolute nicest people you could ever hope to meet!
Black Belt Region of Alabama
The Black Belt Region of Alabama and the rivers that flow through it represent one of North America’s great centers of biological and cultural diversity. This region’s famously rich soils and landscapes had a profound impact on the culture, history and politics of America. From prehistoric settlements, to important sites connected to the Civil Rights Movement. From the famous Gee’s Bend Quilters, to breathtakingly beautiful antebellum mansions. The Black Belt Region of Alabama offers diverse opportunities for History Buffs, Foodies, Outdoor Sports Enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to simply connect with wonderfully kind people and their amazing region of Alabama.
Where is the Black Belt Region of Alabama? Essentially the lower middle section of Alabama, including Tuscaloosa in the Northern section, Livingston in the West, Selma in the central area, and Montgomery in the East.
HOW TO GET THERE:
This is a portion of Alabama you will want to explore by car! From Dallas, we arrived in Livingston, Alabama in the western part of the Black Belt Region of Alabama in seven hours, via Interstate 20. VERY easy drive! From Memphis, the drive is four hours to reach Tuscaloosa. From Atlanta, the drive is three hours to reach Tuscaloosa.
The largest airport in Alabama is in Birmingham, which is on the doorstep of this gorgeous region.
Places of Interest in the Black Belt Region of Alabama
As y’all know, Historic Places of Interest are always at the top of our must-do, whenever we travel. There are SO many amazing places to visit here, I could write for days. Let me share the places Will and I experienced during our visit, as well as our recommendations for where to eat, and where to rest your weary head after a day of exploration.
CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY: The Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium is a collaboration among 20 historic places of worship, lodging and civic engagement that played significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Several important sites are located in Selma, Alabama. With Terry Chestnut, a Private Guide and the son of J.L. Chestnut, Jr., a noted Civil Rights attorney, we explored the following sites:
- Brown Chapel, AME Church
- First Baptist Church
- The Edmund Pettus Bridge
- The George Washington Carver Homes Projects
CIVIL WAR HISTORY: Another site worth exploring in Selma is the Live Oak Cemetery, founded in 1829. A beautifully maintained cemetery, where gorgeous grave markers are shaded by 80 Oak Trees, dripping in Spanish Moss. Many Civil War graves and markers are located here.
WHERE TO SHOP: Will and I are big collectors of Folk Art and Outsider Art. If you have similar interests, be sure and stop by the Charlie “The Tin Man” Lucas Studio. Charlie is an amazing untrained artist, whose sculptural works fashioned from found objects, as well as abstract paintings, have been shown in important galleries from New York City to Atlanta.
WHERE TO EAT: Dinner at the Tally-Ho Restaurant is a real treat! Located in the middle of a residential area, the restaurant is known for fantastic down-home Southern cooking!
WHERE TO STAY: If you plan to stay the night in Selma, I recommend the Historic St. James Hotel, managed by Hilton Hotels, with balcony views of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Not far from Selma is a must-eat stop! The Orrville Farmer’s Market, part of the Black Belt Region’s Flavors Trail, is simply amazing. Owner Judy McKinney not only sells delicious locally grown fruit and vegetables, canned goods, jams, jellies and the MOST delicious Cheese Straws I’ve ever eaten in my life. She and her staff also serve up breakfast and lunch. I enjoyed chicken fried steak, sweet potato casserole, collard greens, and cornbread….for LUNCH. And I ate every single bite. And I’m not even embarrassed. DELICIOUS!
Old Cahawba Archaeological Park
One of the hard aspects of traveling to experience new places, is the lack of time to see everything worthy of….seeing. Old Cahawba Archaeological Park is one of the places we were SICK to have missed, but we were fortunate to have enjoyed dinner at the above mentioned Tally-Ho Restaurant with Linda Derry, the Director of Old Cahawba Archaeological Park.
In 1819, Cahawba was Alabama’s first state capital, built upon the remains of an earlier ghost town, a 16th century Mississippian Indian village. The capital was moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826, but Cahawba grew into a very wealthy antebellum river town. Following the end of the Civil War, Cahawba briefly became a refuge for newly emancipated slaves, but then suddenly and mysteriously, was abandoned.
Today, Cahawba is an important archaeological site and an authentic ghost town. The grounds are open every day, and there’s fantastic programming available, including a Civil War Walking tour, a Bird Walk and Nature Walks, Cemetery Preservation Workshops, and of course, Haunted History Tours!
Greensboro is a charming town, with big plans for its future! When you visit, I recommend the following:
CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY: The Safe House Black History Museum is a small shotgun-style home that served as a refuge from an angry mob for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Just two weeks later, he was assassinated in Memphis, TN.
WHERE TO EAT: The Stable on Main Street is truly delicious! Part of the Blackbelt Region Flavors Trail, Will is STILL talking about his fried Bologna and Pimento Cheese sandwich!
Livingston is a very charming town in the Black Belt Region of Alabama. Home of The University of West Alabama, this sweet community has lots to offer for visitors to the Black Belt Region!
WHAT TO DO: The Black Belt Museum is currently undergoing renovations, but when it reopens, dinosaur-lovers will want to check out the collection of amazing fossils, discovered in this region!
A simple drive around Livingston is a treat, with many historic homes and churches to admire, dating back to the early 1800’s.
WHERE TO EAT: I highly recommend stopping at the Taste of Home Bakery, part of the Blackbelt Region Flavors Trail. This Mennonite owned and operated restaurant and bakery has mouth-watering treats. Personally, I enjoyed the cinnamon-raisin bread slathered in icing. Yummmmm!!! The locals also recommend Dog Street Cafe.
WHERE TO STAY: Y’all, I cannot recommend highly enough a stay at The Venue at Lakewood. Recognized by Southern Living Magazine, this amazing 1840’s antebellum mansion is an Air B&B property, owned and operated by Sidney and Jake Freeman. This fabulous home has been in Sidney’s family for seven generations, and Sidney and Jake have created a wonderful overnight stay experience, for just one room, or for the entire home!
Speaking of Jake…..if you love to hunt, the Alabama Blackbelt Region is widely known for exceptional deer, turkey, dove, and wild hog hunting. And Jake Freeman runs the Lakewood Hunting Lodge in Warsaw, Alabama. Guided bow and rifle hunts, with a lodge that can accommodate up to ten!
If you are interested in Native American History and Culture, or prehistoric sites, you must visit the Moundville Archaeological Park! This site includes 28 earthen mounds used to elevate certain buildings, and built between 800 and 1000 years ago. One mound has steps, so you can climb to the top and see the entire area from above. There’s a wonderful museum there as well, containing pottery, stone carvings and other artifacts excavated in Moundville.
There are other mound sites throughout Alabama, but in the Black Belt Region you can see other examples at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park, and also at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, mentioned above.
Camden, Alabama might be one of the most charming places I’ve visited in a long while. The folks in this town are very proud of the history and culture of the Black Belt Region, and absolutely bent over backwards to make me and Will feel right at home!
WHAT TO DO: I’d recommend starting off your visit with a visit to the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center. Not only do these kind folks offer specialized tours of attractions throughout the region, but they also offer art classes and workshops, artist and author visits, and sell representative home goods, books, and handicrafts made by artisans throughout the Black Belt Region of Alabama.
Of note: The Gee’s Bend Quilt-makers are a short hour’s drive from Camden! And the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center sells examples of their modern work!
WHERE TO SHOP: If you love gorgeous antiques as much as we do, then a stop at The Brittany House Antiques, in nearby Oak Hill, Alabama is a must do! We had the great fortune to meet owner Lance Britt, who is beyond adorable! He knows everyone, he can recommend anything….and the antique furniture and sets of antique china in his shop…are to.die.for.!
Lance recommends (and I trust his recommendations 1000%) a stop at The Pecan on Broad in Camden for delicious gourmet treats!
WHERE TO EAT: Will and I enjoyed dinner at Rack and Reel, a local Sports Bar. Made even more fun because Michael Cook, Director of the Wilcox Area Chamber joined us! He also recommended Gainsridge Dinner Club as another option.
WHERE TO STAY: This final recommendation might be my favorite. If you are fortunate in life, then you will have the opportunity to enjoy a stay at The Liberty Hall Bed and Breakfast. Recently voted “2021 Best B&B” by the readers of Alabama Magazine, fifth generation owners Julia and Dudly Handly are quite possibly two of the kindest people I have ever met. Their 1850’s Greek Revival home is impeccable, furnished with amazing period pieces, many original to the house. And breakfast? I’m wishing I were noshing on a biscuit and some of Dudley’s homemade jam right now!!!
Will and I enjoyed every moment of this discovery trip!
A heartfelt thank you to each and every person who worked so hard to make our time enjoyable and educational!
We will be back, and encourage YOU to make a trip to the Black Belt Region of Alabama real soon!
One special note: When Will and I visited the Safe House Museum in Greensboro, Alabama, we were met by two precious ladies. Ms. Theresa Davis and Ms. Valerie. We stood in the yard, as they shared with us the amazing story of Dr. King’s night inside the safe house. We began to speak about our troubled Nation, and our shared belief that there is so much more that binds us, than separates us. Ms. Theresa asked us if we were “spiritual” people, and we smiled and said we certainly are. And right then and there, the four of us held hands, and prayed together. We prayed for our Nation. We prayed for our Nation’s Leaders. We prayed that the Spirit of the Living God could be felt by all people, and that peace and trust and calm would spread throughout our Nation. We rebuked division. We rebuked lies. We rebuked anger and anything that might tear our Great Nation apart. And we prayed it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Tags: Alabama | Black Belt Region of Alabama | Civil War | Road Trip | Selma