This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Social Capital, Cultural Capital, and the Racial Divide: Community Development Through Art in Alabama's Black Belt




Blejwas, Emily

Type of Degree



Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology


In a changing economy, rural communities must seek new economic strategies to remain viable. This is especially true in Alabama’s Black Belt, a region of persistent poverty, rural isolation, and racial segregation. This study uses the concepts of rural tourism and community development to evaluate efforts undertaken by the town of York, Alabama to revitalize through an art movement. The study considers the specific history of the Black Belt and its effect on revitalization efforts, especially the continued social and cultural segregation between the black and white communities. The concepts of cultural and social capital are used to evaluate the role segregation plays in community development efforts in York, including both unifying and isolating impacts. Strategies for bridging the divide between the black and white communities by promoting an open, integrated, and cohesive art movement are the focus of this study. Because tenets of community development and strategies for integration are at the heart of any successful revitalization plan, experiences in York provide a blueprint for other Black Belt communities hoping to strengthen community in a new economy.