Down in the Old Belt : Voices from the Tobacco South

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  • The tobacco farmers of the Old Belt of Virginia represent a history and a way of life that began with the founding of Jamestown and the colony of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay. But tobacco farmers in Southside Virginia, like coal miners in Appalachia, have come upon hard times. Declining quotas, production moving overseas, society's changing attitudes, and the 2004 tobacco buyout have radically altered the cultural landscape of the Old Belt, the birthplace of Bright Leaf tobacco. This program traces the history and culture of tobacco in Virginia, providing a basis for studying past and ongoing socioeconomic changes, from the era of slavery to the present. Combining extensive archival materials with interviews and oral histories conducted with several Old Belt tobacco farming families, the film examines the impact on local communities and allows farmers to tell their stories - not for sympathy, but to shed light on a cultural paradigm shift occurring in the tobacco industry, and in agriculture throughout the United States, today.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on January 17, 2013.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.


  • Change in the Old Belt (1:50) -- Tobacco Was the Gold (4:40) -- Opened Up This Country (3:15) -- A New Type of Tobacco (2:02) -- The Birthplace (3:12) -- I Didn't Have Anything (4:23) -- A License To Grow (5:34) -- A Common Thread (6:29) -- The Tobacco Market (1:36) -- Most Perfect Leaf (2:15) -- A Musical Flair (3:11) -- It Is Change (1:01) -- A World Atmosphere (10:10) -- The Ending of An Era (1:59) -- You Won't Ever See It Anymore (2:16) -- Credits: Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the Tobacco South (1:43)
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