The role of 80-million year-old rocks in American slavery — Lewis Dartnell at The Interval

The role of 80-million year-old rocks in American slavery — Lewis Dartnell at The Interval


So there’s not a direct link, clearly,
between the geology and people’s votes. But there is this
wonderful chain of cause and effect through hundreds of years of human
history and then millions of years of our planet’s history. And what was
happening on the planet 75 to 80 million years ago in a chapter of Earth’s
history called the Cretaceous is the sea levels were much much higher back then.
The ocean lapped right up through the middle of North America and a great
interior sea, and laid down what was essentially thick deposits of seafloor
mud, which became compacted down, buried by more recent strata of rocks, and
then eroded away again and exposed along this particular arc in the Southern
States. To the north, the rocks are older, to the south, they’re younger. These are the
Cretaceous age rocks. And when that rock erodes to create soil, it gives you
a very rich, fertile, dark soil. And it’s realized in the early 1800s that that
soil is phenomenally productive at growing cash crops like cotton—which, as we’ve already mentioned, unfortunately, in this period of history, meant slave labor.
Cotton is incredibly finicky to harvest it’s not like cotton or rice where you can
simply chop it off at the stalk take it out of your field and then shake a bit
to get the grain that you want. Cotton requires fingers. And even today after
hundreds of years, after the Civil War and emancipation and freedom from
slavery in the Civil Rights Movement, even today is that Cretaceous band of
rocks that has the highest density of black African Americans living there
today. People unfortunately still suffer, still are blighted with social economic
problems of poor wages, poor health care, poor social structures, people that are
therefore more likely to vote for Democrat election promises rather than
Republican. And in fact, the city I’ve marked here, Montgomery, is where in 1955
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to white gentlemen on the bus. The very
epicenter of the entire Civil Rights Movement that transformed society and
politics in the whole of the United States began
smack in the middle of rocks that are 80 million years old on the surface.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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