There is a geographical strip in the United States that voted massively to Barack Obama in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. It is a strip that, electorally, behaves since the reconstruction of the United States after the civil war in a different way from the rest. It is a strip that runs southeast and then curves through North Carolina and South Carolina, Geogia and Alabama, and then follows the banks of the Mississippi River.
Of course, there are many causes that reinforce the vote of the inhabitants of this geographical strip. But there is a latent that resonates at the bottom of them all: an ancient ocean millions of years old.
This strip of land is actually made up of surface rocks that were deposited during the late Cretaceous period in Earth's history, between 86 and 66 million years ago. In those years, the United States was largely under water, covering this entire strip approximately half of the country. It was the call Western Inland Sea.
The sea licked, in turn, the Appalachian Mountains along the eastern side of the continent, eroding it. The eroded material was transported by the rivers to this sea and deposited as clays on the seabed, what finally became a layer of shales (medium-grade metamorphic rocks, notable mainly for the preponderance of laminar minerals such as mica, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite and others).
When the sea disappeared, it exposed this layer, rich in nutrients, perfect for agriculture, particularly for the cultivation of cotton. After the Industrial Revolution, cotton became a very important raw material for making clothes (the result of mechanization). The problem is that cotton cultivation required a lot of labor. Labor provided by slaves, as Lewis Dartnell explains in his book Origins:
Unlike the cultivation of cereals, in which the grain can be simply dropped from the plant by means of a winder, that of cotton required human fingers at its dawn to tear each cottony baga from the bush one by one. And, since the end of the 18th century, in the southern states these fingers were provided by slaves.
In this region, then, slavery was established and prospered more than in any other, due to the interesting business offered by the cotton plantation. These slaves were African-American, who was there because before a sea had deposited a series of eroded material. After slavery was abolished, there were hardly any demographic changes in the area. Fortunes also began to collapse when cotton prices began to plummet.
Former African-American slaves now had no job and inhabited an impoverished and forgotten region. The call Black belt. This has been a breeding ground for future election results, as Dartnell concludes:
Without an important development of industry or tourism, this once productive region has long suffered socio-economic problems: a high rate of unemployment and poverty, low levels of education and poor health care. Therefore, there the electorate has traditionally tended to vote for policies and the promises of the Democratic Party.