Belle Glade, Florida

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Belle Glade, Florida
City of Belle Glade
Welcome sign
Welcome sign
Official seal of Belle Glade, Florida
Muck City[1][2]
Her Soil is Her Fortune
Location of Belle Glade, Florida
Location of Belle Glade, Florida
Coordinates: 26°41′7″N 80°40′17″W / 26.68528°N 80.67139°W / 26.68528; -80.67139Coordinates: 26°41′7″N 80°40′17″W / 26.68528°N 80.67139°W / 26.68528; -80.67139
Country United States of America
State Florida
CountyPalm Beach
Settled (Hillsboro Settlement)c. 1912–April 8, 1928[3][4][5][6][7] [8]
Incorporated (Town of Belle Glade)April 9, 1928[3][4][5][6][7][8]
Incorporated (City of Belle Glade)September 11, 1945[3][4][5][6][7][8]
 • TypeCommissioner-Manager
 • MayorSteve B. Wilson
 • Vice MayorMary Ross Wilkerson
 • CommissionersMichael C. Martin,
City Treasurer
Joaquin Almazan,
Kenny Berry.
 • City ManagerLomax Harrelle
 • City ClerkDebra R. Buff
 • Total7.03 sq mi (18.21 km2)
 • Land6.97 sq mi (18.06 km2)
 • Water0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)
Elevation16 ft (5 m)
 • Total16,698
 • Density2,395.01/sq mi (924.66/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code561
FIPS code12-05200[11]
GNIS feature ID0278445[10]

Belle Glade is a city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States, on the southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 17,467.

Belle Glade (and the surrounding area) is sometimes referred to as "Muck City" due to the large quantity of muck, in which sugarcane grows, found in the area.[1] Despite being located in the South Florida region of the state, Belle Glade is culturally more associated with the Florida Heartland.

For a time during the early to mid 1980s, the city had the highest rate of AIDS infection per capita (37 cases in a population of roughly 19,000) in the United States.[12] According to the FBI, in 2003, the city had the second highest violent crime rate in the country at 298 per 10,000 residents.[citation needed] In 2010, the Palm Beach County sheriff's office estimated that half of the young men in Belle Glade between the ages of 18 and 25 had felony convictions.[13]


African American migratory workers by a juke joint in Belle Glade, 1941. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott.


The town of Belle Glade was founded during the Florida land boom of the 1920s.[14] During that period, there were a series of efforts made to put in place drainage systems to reclaim dry land from the Everglades, including land around Lake Okeechobee. It was hoped that the reclaimed acreage could be put to better use, including agriculture. In 1921 the Florida legislature established an agricultural research station at Belle Glade to study methods of growing crops on reclaimed Everglades land. At that time, there were already 16 settlements on and around Lake Okeechobee, inhabited by around 2,000 people.[15]

A settlement, originally named Hillsboro, was built at what is now Belle Glade in 1925.[16] In 1926 the Florida East Coast Railway extended its system to Belle Glade, which helped the town's development.[17][18]

1928 hurricane[edit]

A powerful hurricane struck the area on September 16, 1928. The storm winds caused Lake Okeechobee to overflow its banks, inundating towns around the lake and causing widespread damage in Belle Glade. According to figures compiled by the Florida Department of Health, the storm killed 611 people in Belle Glade alone, and a total of over 1,800 statewide. Contemporary accounts stated that most of the dead were Black migrant farmworkers, a "large percentage" of which were believed to be from the Bahamas.[19] Belle Glade was rebuilt, and a large dike was erected to protect towns around the lake from storm-driven overflows.

World War II[edit]

German prisoners of war were confined in camps located at Belle Glade and nearby Clewiston during World War II.[20]


In the early 1980s, researchers began to notice a large number of people with AIDS in Belle Glade. The disease had first been identified by doctors in New York and California in 1981, and it was largely associated with communities of gay men in and around large cities. In Belle Glade, however, people with AIDS mainly identified as heterosexual, and around half were women. Some researchers, and notably Dr. Mark Whiteside and Dr. Carolyn MacLeod of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, in Miami, hypothesized that AIDS in Belle Glade might be connected to poverty and poor living conditions in the city's "colored town," where many people diagnosed with the disease also lived. Their theory, along with the very high per capita AIDS rate in Belle Glade, brought notoriety to the town as the "AIDS capital of the world."

Whiteside and MacLeod's theory turned out to be incorrect, but subsequent research conducted in Belle Glade shaped scientific knowledge about the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, through heterosexual sex.[21]

In recent years[edit]

Today, the area around Lake Okeechobee is fertile and farming is an important industry. Sugar cane and vegetables are grown there.[22]

Migrant farmworkers are an important part of the labor force. Belle Glade received national attention when a 1960 CBS television documentary, Harvest of Shame, graphically depicted the local migrant farmerworkers' daily existence and working conditions.[23][24]

Men and women still gather around 5 a.m. in the same lot you see at the beginning of Harvest of Shame, waiting for buses to take them to the fields. The "loading ramp," as it's called, is a bleak, empty lot, surrounded by some small buildings with bars on the windows and a boarded up storefront.[25]

As of May 2014 the city has plans "to demolish the loading ramp and turn it into a park."[25]

The town is known for its football tradition, and together with nearby Pahokee has "sent at least 60 players to the National Football League".[2]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.7 square miles (12 km2), of which 4.7 square miles (12 km2) are land and 0.21% is water.


Climate data for Belle Glade, Florida, 1991–2020 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 75.9
Daily mean °F (°C) 63.9
Average low °F (°C) 51.8
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.27
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.1 7.3 7.6 7.6 8.6 16.2 17.0 17.1 17.5 11.7 7.7 7.8 135.2
Source: NOAA[26]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[27]
Belle Glade Amphitheater

2020 census[edit]

Belle Glade racial composition
(Hispanics excluded from racial categories)
(NH = Non-Hispanic)[28]
Race Number Percentage
White (NH) 1,091 6.53%
Black or African American (NH) 9,432 56.49%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 3 0.02%
Asian (NH) 77 0.46%
Pacific Islander (NH) 3 0.02%
Some Other Race (NH) 31 0.19%
Mixed/Multi-Racial (NH) 259 1.55%
Hispanic or Latino 5,802 34.75%
Total 16,698

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 16,698 people, 6,642 households, and 3,760 families residing in the city.

2010 census[edit]

As of the census of 2010, there were 6,368 households, out of which 11.3% were vacant. In 2000, 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 22.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.3% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.04 and the average family size was 3.62.

2000 census[edit]

In 2000, the population was spread out, with 33.5% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 8.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 103.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.6 males.

In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $22,715, and the median income for a family was $26,756. Males had a median income of $26,232 versus $21,410 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,159. About 28.5% of families and 32.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.1% of those under age 18 and 21.4% of those age 65 or over.

As of 2000, speakers of English as a first language accounted for 61.03% of all residents, while Spanish as a mother tongue consisted of 26.87%, Haitian Creole comprised 11.00%, and French made up 1.07% of the population.[29]

As of 2000, Belle Glade had the tenth highest percentage of Haitian residents in the United States, at 11.50% of the populace.[30] It also had the sixtieth highest percentage of Cuban residents nationally, at 5.98% of the population.[31]


Belle Glade Industrial Park

The cane sugar mill of the "Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative" (SCGC) is located at Belle Glade. During the crop season the factory employs 550 people.[32]

As of Feb. 2013, the official unemployment rate was about 15%; however, the town's mayor suggested the actual unemployment rate was closer to 40%. The number of jobs available locally dropped as local agriculture shifted from vegetables to sugarcane, a more highly mechanized crop.[13]

The United States Postal Service operates the Belle Glade Post Office.[33]

The Florida Department of Corrections operated the Glades Correctional Institution in an unincorporated area in Palm Beach County near Belle Glade.[34] It was founded in 1932, employed about 350, had a capacity of 918 inmates [34] and was scheduled for closure in December 2011.[35]

Parks and recreation[edit]

Pool at Lakeshore in Belle Glade
The Belle Glade Branch Library is operated by the Palm Beach County Library System

The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail runs through Belle Glade.


School District of Palm Beach County operates public schools.

Elementary schools[edit]

  • Gove Elementary
  • Belle Glade Elementary
  • Glade View Elementary
  • Pioneer Park Elementary
  • Sellew Belle Glade Excel Charter School

Middle schools[edit]

  • Lake Shore Middle School

High schools[edit]

Private schools[edit]


Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In CBS Reports' 1960 program Harvest of Shame, Belle Glade plays a prominent role as a source of migrant agricultural labor.

The final scenes of the crime novel Pretty Little Things by Jilliane Hoffman take place in a sugarcane plantation near Belle Glade.

The high school football culture of Belle Glade is the subject of the non-fiction book, Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town by author Bryan Mealer.

The psychedelic pop band of Montreal released a track titled, "Belle Glade Missionaries" on their 2013 album, Lousy with Sylvianbriar.

In Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, characters Janie and Tea Cake join other African American migrant workers in picking beans in Belle Glade.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Adelson, Eric. "The Chase". ESPN The Magazine. ESPN. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b Ovaska, Mark (February 2, 2012). "Muck City. Way Out". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018. In Muck City, football is salvation, an escape from the likelihood of prison or early death.
  3. ^ a b c "Viva Florida 500 - History Happened Here: Belle Glade". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Palm Beach County Historical Society: Belle Glade". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "This week in history: Belle Glade incorporated". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "Belle Glade, Florida, USA". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "The Chamber - Belle Glade Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Information Center: Our History". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "City of Belle Glade: About Us". Archived from the original on September 13, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  9. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  10. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Belle Glade, Florida
  11. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  12. ^ AEGiS-Miami Herald: PLAGUE BAFFLES TOWN Belle Glades AIDS rate tops in U.S Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b Ovaska, Mark (February 2, 2012). "Muck City. Way Out". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  14. ^ Gorman, Juliet. "Introduction to Belle Glade". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  15. ^ Tebeau, Charleton W. (1971). A History of Florida (revised 1980 ed.). Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press. pp. 348–351. ISBN 0-87024-303-9.
  16. ^ "Belle Glade". Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  17. ^ Tebeau op cit. p. 351.
  18. ^ Monmaney, Terence. "The Strange Beauty at the Edge of the Everglades". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  19. ^ Kleinberg, Elliot. Black Cloud: The Great Florida Hurricane of 1928. New York: Carroll & Graf. pp. 98–99, 213, 243–244. ISBN 0-7867-1146-9.
  20. ^ Kleinberg, Eliot (January 2, 2022). "Florida history: German prisoners of war – the enemy in our midst". The Palm Beach Post.
  21. ^ Royles, Dan (2020). To make the wounded whole : the African American struggle against HIV/AIDS. Chapel Hill. ISBN 978-1-4696-5952-7. OCLC 1176467984.
  22. ^ ""Black Gold" Keeps Local Farmers Rooted Around Belle Glade; Belle Glade's Black Soil Is Among Richest In Country". ABC News. WPBF25. October 4, 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  23. ^ Kleinberg op cit. p. 216.
  24. ^ Monmaney op cit.
  25. ^ a b "In Confronting Poverty, 'Harvest Of Shame' Reaped Praise And Criticism". NPR. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  26. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  27. ^ "Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades". US Census Bureau.
  28. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  29. ^ "MLA Data Center Results of Belle Glade, FL". Modern Language Association. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  30. ^ "Ancestry Map of Haitian Communities". Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  31. ^ "Ancestry Map of Cuban Communities". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  32. ^ press release of SCGC, added 2011-04-24
  33. ^ "Post Office™ Location - BELLE GLADE Archived 2012-09-02 at the Wayback Machine." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on August 26, 2011.
  34. ^ a b "Glades Correctional Institution Archived 2011-09-26 at the Wayback Machine." Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 26, 2011.
  35. ^ Kam, Dara, and Jennifer Sorentrue, "Rep. Bernard: State prisons chief says Glades prison will close Dec. 1", Palm Beach Post, September 21, 2011.
  36. ^ "Reidel Anthony Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011. High School: Glades Central (Belle Glade, FL)
  37. ^ "Player Bio: Brad Banks :: Football". Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  38. ^ "Jessie Hester Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on November 19, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  39. ^ "Santonio Holmes Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on 19 May 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  40. ^ "James Lee Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on November 23, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  41. ^ Frank, Vincent. "Barkevious Mingo: 5 Things You Need to Know About the LSU Linebacker". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  42. ^ Elman, Jake. "2019 NFL Draft: Royal Palm Beach High's Jimmy Moreland making most of second chance". Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  43. ^ "Louis Oliver Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  44. ^ "Fred Taylor Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011. High School: Glades Central (Belle Glade, FL)
  45. ^ "Andre Waters Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on November 21, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  46. ^ "Rhondy Weston Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards -". Archived from the original on April 20, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2014.

External links[edit]