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Time is running out to support annual book drive promoting literacy in Alabama’s Black Belt

UA News Center

Book donations for schools in the thirteen counties along the Black Belt region in Alabama are in the final week of collections. The 18th annual Books for the Black Belt campaign wraps up on Friday, March 1.

It’s put on by The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED). The initiative calls for donations of new or gently used books for grades K-12. That’s in addition to classic and award-winning books commonly found on school reading lists.

Due to a generous donation of elementary and high school books last year, communities are looking for middle school books. ACT and SAT prep books are also in high demand because of their high expense.

The campaign seeks to deliver donated books to schools in Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox counties in late spring.

“Proficiency and reading at a young age can be indicative of high school graduates [and] graduation rates,” said UACED branding and communications development manager Erin Hackenmueller. “So, it's really important to have these resources in the hands of kids, because education is so important for preparing the next generation to be leaders in their community.”

The UA News Center reports in a press release that Alabama’s Black Belt faces economic challenges as well as high rates of poverty and unemployment. That’s in addition to declining populations. The outlet says limited access to educational resources is a critical concern for K-12 students in this region. UACED’s primary goal is to make books accessible to every child in the Black Belt.

The Books for the Black Belt campaign started in 2006 as an extension of former Governor Bob Riley’s Black Belt Action Commission, an Education Subcommittee. UACED has led the project since its inception.

“We have collected thousands and thousands of books for Alabama's Black Belt. Last year, we collected over 11,500 books,” said Hackenmueller. “At the Center for Economic Development, we work with different communities, agencies and organizations by providing them resources that they need to respond to economic challenges and help grow their community.”

The 2023 campaign distributed those books to 68 schools and received $360 in donations. Hackenmueller said UACED is hopeful of exceeding last year’s number. Workers and volunteers are excited to see the impact this campaign will bring to communities this year.

The donated books are delivered to the school boards to the 13 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt region. School leaders then decide how they want to distribute the books.

Donations will be accepted until Friday, March 1. There are several donation locations across the Tuscaloosa area. Bins can be found both off and on UA’s campus.

Drop-off locations and recommended book lists can be found here. If donors are unable to visit one of these locations, UACED will also accept monetary donations.

Those not from Tuscaloosa who’d like to participate are encouraged to purchase a bundle of pre-packaged used books from The Book Bundler. The Book Bundler allows participants to select books based on a certain age group, genre and condition of the books.

If participants choose to donate via The Book Bundler, UACED has asked to be emailed to be sure to receive it. Those messages can be sent to Hackenmueller at

Book bundles are requested to be sent to the UACED office at:

The University Center for Economic Development

621 Greensboro Avenue

Tuscaloosa, AL 35401.


More information on the annual Books for the Black Belt campaign can be found on the center’s website.

Gabriella Smith is a student intern with the Alabama Public Radio. She is a junior studying Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Gabbi has a passion for storytelling and editing content. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, cooking for herself and friends, and discovering new movies to watch.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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