While growing up in rural Alabama, I had the great fortune of encountering life experiences that made me intellectually curious about the life circumstances and relationships that I observed. During this time, fundamental questions about rural people and places were formed and I have spent both my personal and professional life trying to answer them. My early career was focused on documenting and highlighting the lives of rural people, particularly those in the Black Belt region of the South. Not only was this region’s culture my own cultural heritage, it was also critical in the development of our country’s socioeconomic and political systems. So, while often overlooked, what happens in the Black Belt region matters, historically and today.