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Alabama is a state of the southeast United States. It was admitted as the 22nd state in 1819. Alabama was first explored by the Spanish, and the southern section was claimed by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Montgomery is the capital and Birmingham the largest city. Population: 4,550,000.
Agriculture was practiced by Indians such as the Creeks and Cherokee in the east, and the Choctaws and Chickasaws in the west when Spanish explorers arrived. The first known European contact with what would become Alabama occurred in 1519 when Alonso Alvarez de Pineda sailed in Mobile Bay. Cabeza de Vaca (and possibly Pánfilo de Narvaez) visited Alabama in 1528, and the Spanish did not really explore the area for another two decades, when Hernando de Soto led an expedition into the region about 1540. Conflict between the Spanish and local Indian tribes, as well as French and English explorers, kept the Spanish from establishing a colony. The first permanent European settlers in Alabama were French. The LeMoyne brothers, Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d'Iberville, and Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville, sailed into Mobile Bay in 1699, and in 1702 the French were established at Fort Louis de la Mobile, the first permanent European presence, near present day Mobile.
The French and British contended for the furs gathered by Native Americans. The British gained control of the area in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris after the French and Indian Wars, but had to cede almost all the Alabama region to the U.S. and Spain after the American Revolution. When Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1779, the American Revolution came to Alabama. In 1780, Bernardo Galvez captured Mobile from the British. At the close of the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded (1783) to the United States all lands east of the Mississippi except the Floridas (see West Florida Controversy). The Territory of Mississippi, which included parts of present-day Alabama, was set up in 1798, but the land was still largely a wilderness with a considerable fur trade, centered at Saint Stephens, and with only the beginnings of cotton cultivation.
In 1795, the Treaty of San Lorenzo more specifically stated that all Alabama lands below the 31st parallel belonged to Spain, and lands above the 31st parallel belonged to the United States and in turn to the Native Americans living there. At the same time the Ellicott Line was being surveyed, “squatters” (those having no legal claim to the lands they settled) began to move into Alabama forcing the various tribes off their lands. Washington, the first Alabama county, was created in 1800 from Mississippi Territory. The area below the 31st parallel was added to Mississippi Territory in 1812.
Both the fur trade and cotton production were interrupted during the War of 1812, when part of the Creek Confederacy began attacking under William Weatherford. Andrew Jackson defeated a group of Native Americans at Horseshoe Bend on Mar. 27, 1814. That victory, coupled with the British demand for cotton, ushered in a period of heavy settlement. New settlers poured into the Alabama region, especially from Georgia and Tennessee. The wealthy newcomers settled in the fertile bottomlands and established large plantations based on slave labor, which helped to produce cotton for the markets of Southern ports. Poorer newcomers took over less fertile uplands, where they eked out a living. The population grew to such an extent that the Territory of Alabama, taking Saint Stephens as its capital, was set up in 1817 with William W. Bibb as governor; two years later it became a state, and, in 1835, the last native lands were ceded.
During those early years of statehood the most significant genealogical event was the opening of lands formerly held by Native Americans to white settlers between 1802 and 1835. Mary Elizabeth Young, Redskins, Ruffleshirts and Rednecks: Indian Allotments in Alabama and Mississippi, 1830–1860 (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961), details these developments. By 1840 all but a few scattered tribes had been moved west beyond the Mississippi River.
Alabama suffered economic and agricultural problems in the 1840s and 1850s. The financial panic and depression which swept across the United States in 1837 resulted in banking problems that caused many Alabamians to lose their savings. Crops were ruined by drought, and several epidemics of yellow fever brought added suffering.
In Alabama the slave-owning planters were dominant because of the prosperous cotton crop, and as the Civil War loomed closer, the support of Southern rights and secession sentiment grew under the urging of “fire-eaters” such as William L. Yancey. And it was there in Montgomery, which was named the as the permanent state capital in 1846, that on 11 January 1861, that the Ordinance of Secession was passed, forming the Confederate States of America.
The government of the Confederacy was organized at Montgomery on Feb. 4, 1861. Montgomery was named as the capital of the fledgling nation and Jefferson Davis became the first president of the Confederacy. One of the principal naval battles of the war was won by Admiral D. G. Farragut in Mobile Bay in August of 1864, coupled with Sherman's march to the sea in Georgia cut off the two major seaports of the Confederacy and harkened the end of the bloodiest conflict in American history.
However, most of the state was not occupied in force until 1865. When compared with other Confederate states, Alabama, with the exception of the Mobile area, experienced relatively little military action. However, the conflict devastated the economic, political, and social life of the state. Though the state was readmitted to the Union on 25 June 1868, the devastation continued through the Reconstruction period. The deepening poverty experienced resulted in mass migration. Alabama ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, but in 1867 it refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and was placed under military rule. That rule ended the following year when a new state legislature operating under a new constitution approved the Fourteenth Amendment. However, federal troops did not leave Alabama until 1876, and African Americans continued to suffer enormous oppression for decades.
In the Reconstruction era Alabama's government was dominated by the so-called carpetbaggers and scalawags, and corruption was widespread. Few reforms emerged during the period; but the mining of coal and iron was expanded by Daniel Pratt and his successor, H. F. De Bardeleben, marking the rise of industry in Alabama.
In the 1860s and 1870s, 10 to 15 percent of the entire white population of Alabama migrated, with a third of these migrants going to Texas. Railroads were completed across the state in the 1870s, leading to the industry of mining of Alabama's rich mineral deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone. By 1880, steel, iron, lumber, and textile industries were rapidly expanding.
In 1915 the boll weevil devastated the state's one crop cotton economy, forcing a diversification in agriculture. FDR's New Deal touched the northern part of the state as the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) brought work to the northern part of the state during the deepest darkest hours of the Depression. The construction of locks and dams along the Tennessee River brought commercial barge navigation, as well as electricity, to the rural areas along the river. Alabama's industry and commerce grew with the United States' entry into World War I. Agricultural production increased, and a significant growth in Mobile's shipbuilding industry led to increased foreign trade. During the Great Depression, Alabamians suffered new financial hardships. The Tennessee Valley Authority, established in 1933 by the federal government, developed dams and power plants on the Tennessee River for inexpensive electricity, boosting Alabama's industrial growth.
World War II led to expansion of the state's agricultural and industrial production, and installation of several military training sites, including Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville —which launched the United States into the space age.
During the 1950s and 1960s, agriculture and industry became more diversified, requiring fewer agricultural workers who were forced to seek employment in urban areas outside the state. Alabama faced serious racial questions during the time period. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, the 381-day bus boycott brought the Civil Rights movement to the front page of newspapers across the country.
In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision ruling racial segregation in public elementary and secondary schools unconstitutional, and the decision was followed by an intensification of racial tension (see integration). Alabama has witnessed many civil-rights protests, including a year-long black boycott of public buses in Montgomery in 1955–56 to protest segregated seating and a Freedom March from Montgomery to Selma led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
George C. Wallace, a Democrat elected governor in 1962, fought the federally ordered integration of schools in Alabama. He was reelected three times: 1970, 1974, and 1982, the final time with substantial African-American support. In 1968 he entered the U.S. presidential race as the candidate of the American Independent party. He ran for the presidency twice more—in 1972 and 1976. Since the late 1970s, public attention has largely shifted to economic issues, and major efforts have been made to achieve growth by encouraging further diversification of manufacturing industries. A notable success in this campaign was the building by Mercedes-Benz of auto assembly plant in Alabama. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, a 254-mile (682-km) canal connecting the port of Mobile with the industries that have developed in N Alabama and elsewhere along the Tennessee, opened in 1985. In 1995 Hurricane Opal caused extensive damage in Alabama as far north as Montgomery.
- Alabama introduced the Mardi Gras to the western world. The celebration is held on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins.
- Alabama workers built the first rocket to put humans on the moon.
- The world's first Electric Trolley System was introduced in Montgomery in 1886.
- Alabama is the only state with all major natural resources needed to make iron and steel. It is also the largest supplier of cast-iron and steel pipe products.
- Montgomery is the capital and the birthplace of the Confederate States of America.
- The Confederate flag was designed and first flown in Alabama in 1861.
- Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819.
- The town of Enterprise houses the Boll Weevil Monument to acknowledge the role this destructive insect played in encouraging farmers to grow crops other than cotton.
- Baseball player Henry Louis (Hank) Aaron was born in Mobile in 1934.
- Boxer Joe Louis was born in Lexington in 1914. He died in 1981.
- "Alabama" is the official state song.
- Baseball player Willie Howard Mays was born in Westfield in 1931.
- A skeleton of a pre-historic man was found in Russell Cave.
- At 2,405 feet Cheaha Mountain is Alabama's highest point above sea level.
- Huntsville is known as the rocket capital of the World.
- The Alabama Department of Archives is the oldest state-funded archival agency in the nation.
- The musical singing group Alabama has a Fan Club and Museum in Fort Payne.
- In 1902 Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere by suturing a stab wound in a young boy's heart. The surgery occurred in Montgomery.
- To help fund education Alabama instituted its state sales tax in 1937.
- Schools established in Mobile include Washington Academy (founded in 1811) and Huntsville Green Academy (founded in 1812).
- Between 1817 and 1819 Old Saint Stephens was the first territorial capital of Alabama.
- In 1956 the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was established at Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal.
- Governor George C. Wallace served four terms in office.
- In 1995 Heather Whitestone serves as first Miss America chosen with a disability.
- Alabama's geographic center is located in Chilton a community located 12 miles southwest of Clanton.
- The word Alabama means tribal town in the Creek Indian language.
- The United States Army Chemical Corps Museum in Fort McClellan contains over 4000 chemical warfare artifacts.
- Hitler's typewriter survived from his mountain retreat and is exhibited at the Hall of History in Bessemer.
- Blount County was created on February 7, 1818 and is older than the state.
- Winston County is often called the Free State of Winston. It gained the name during the Civil War.
- Mobile is named after the Mauvilla Indians.
- Peter Bryce is recognized as the state's first psychiatrist. He was born in 1834 and died in 1892.
- The Alabama State Flag was authorized by the Alabama legislature on February 16, 1895.
- Hematite is Alabama's official state mineral and is known as oxide of iron (Fe2O3).
- The Monarch butterfly (Danaus pleipuss) is the state's official insect.
- The star blue quartz is the state's official gemstone.
- The Florence Renaissance Faire is the Alabama's official fair.
- The pecan is the Alabama's official nut.
- People from Alabama are called Alabamians.
- On January 11, 1861 Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union.
- On January 28, 1846 Montgomery was selected as capital of Alabama.
- Tallulah Bankhead entertained as a star of stage, screen, and radio during the 1930s-1950s. She was born in Huntsville in 1902 and died in 1968.
- Singer and entertainer Nathaniel Adams (Nat King) Cole was known as the man with the velvet voice. He was born in Montgomery in 1919 and died in 1965.
- Alabama resident Sequoyah devised the phonetic, written alphabet of the Cherokee language.
- The Birmingham Airport opened in 1931. At the time of the opening a Birmingham to Los Angeles flight took 19 hours.
- Alabama's mean elevation is 500 feet at its lowest elevation point.
- Audemus jura nostra defendere is the official state motto. Translated it means "we dare defend our rights."
- Washington County is the oldest county in Alabama.
- General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians in 1814. Following the event the Native Americans ceded nearly half the present state land to the United States.
- At the Battle of Mobile Bay Admiral David Farragut issued his famous command, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." The event occurred on August 5, 1864.
Alabama Local Legacies
- AfricaTown, USA
- America's Junior Miss
- Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
- Cheaha Mountain State Park
- Chilton County Peach Festival
- City of Irondale: 8th Whistlestop Festival and Street Dance
- DeSoto Caverns Park, Childersburg, Alabama
- Dogwood Festival
- International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
- Ivy Green (Helen Keller's Birthplace)
- Kentuck Festival of Arts
- Mardi Gras in Mobile
- National Peanut Festival
- Old Mobile
- Pioneer Day in Clarke County
- Poarch Creek Indians
- Pond Spring and Wheeler Home
- Roanoke, Alabama: Home of the Ella Smith Doll
- Rocket City Legacies (Marshall Space Center)
- St. Stephens
- Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention
- To Kill a Mockingbird and Old Monroe County Courthouse
- University of Montevallo's College Night
- USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
- W.C. Handy Music Festival
- Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
- Alabama.gov - Official Web site of the state of Alabama offers information about state and local government, business, education, employment, health care, tourism, and more.
ADAH: Alabama Moments
http://www.alabamamoments.state.al.us/Contents.html High school-level resource on various events, places, and people related to the history of Alabama, created by Alabama Department of Archives and History. Includes summaries, primary sources, bibliography, activities, and maps. Curriculum-correlated.
Alabama - Fact Sheet - American FactFinder
http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ACSSAFFFacts?_event=Search&geo_id=&_geoContext=&_street=&_county=&_cityTown=&_state=04000US01 The U.S. Census Bureau provides easy access to statistical tables and thematic maps for the state of Alabama.
Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel
http://www.touralabama.org/ Web site of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel features a clickable map leading to detailed information on attractions, accommodations, activities, and events in four different regions. Includes a trip planner, maps, and a photo gallery.
Alabama Department of Archives and History
http://www.archives.state.al.us/ An excellent resource on Alabama, this official Web site offers an illustrated history outline, genealogical information, military and other government records, and links to related Web resources.
Alabama State Parks
http://www.alapark.com/ Official Web site of Alabama State Parks provides links to parks throughout the state with detailed information about accommodations, recreation, attractions, and events at each site. Includes maps and photos.
All US Newspapers / Sort by Title
http://www.newspapers.com/usa_news.htm Newspapers.com (based in Madison, Wis.) provides links to the Web sites of newspapers in the United States, organized by state. Also includes searchable sets of links to college newspapers and TV/radio stations.
America's Byways - Alabama
http://www.byways.org/explore/states/AL/ Part of Federal Highway Administration's Web site promoting all-American roads and state-designated scenic byways, this section offers road maps, quick facts, and slide shows for the points of interest along the roads and highways of Alabama.
Constitution of Alabama - 1901
http://www.legislature.state.al.us/CodeOfAlabama/Constitution/1901/main.htm Complete text of the present constitution of the State of Alabama, which became effective on Nov. 28, 1901. Provided by the Alabama legislature.
DataFinder - Population Reference Bureau
http://www.prb.org/datafind/prjprbdata/wcprbdata7.asp?DW=DF&SL=&SA=2 The Population Reference Bureau's "DataFinder" provides information on more than 250 social, economic, and demographic variables (from ethnicity and disability to housing and commuting) for each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Col
EdWeb -- Alabama Department of Education
http://www.alsde.edu/ Alabama state education department provides an overview of the agency and information on educational facilities, school districts, programs, and other related resources.
FindLaw: State Resources
http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/ A comprehensive, searchable legal database that provides access to all U.S. state/territory government agencies, statutes, codes, and a host of additional state government resources. From FindLaw, a legal research tool.
Historical United States Census Data Browser
http://fisher.lib.Virginia.EDU/census/ Rich source of electronically browsable historical U.S. census data from 1790 to 1960. Categorized by state and county. Provided by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/statutes.html#state Well-organized (by state and by topic) index of links to information on and texts of U.S. state codes, constitutions, statutes, judicial opinions, and other state legal resources. From the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.
NACo - About Counties - Find a County
http://www.naco.org/Template.cfm?Section=Find_a_County&Template=/cffiles/counties/usamap.cfm The National Association of Counties provides "The History of County Government" and a variety of data on each county in each U.S. state: elected officials, cities and towns, census results, and more. Data are arranged by state via a clickable map.
Natchez Trace Parkway Homepage
http://www.nps.gov/natr/ A page devoted to the Natchez Trace Parkway from the U.S. National Park Service, offering general information, important facts and figures, and park regulations for visitors.
National Park Service - Experience Your America
http://www.nps.gov/ U.S. National Park Service Web site provides descriptions of parks, monuments, and preserves, along with other information useful to those preparing to visit. Information on individual parks is accessible by state/territory, activity, or topic.
National Register of Historical Places
http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/ Web site of the National Register of Historic Places provides information on some 80,000 sites and structures, arranged by state and county. Data include area of significance, architect, style, period, function, associated historic person(s), and more.
http://www.newspaperlinks.com/voyager.cfm Web sites of U.S. daily and weekly newspapers (arranged by state and city within state), media groups, and leading newspapers worldwide (by region). Offered by the Newspaper Association of America.
Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: Alabama
http://censtats.census.gov/data/AL/04001.pdf Statistical profile of the state of Alabama based on the latest census data. Includes demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics. Provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. In PDF format (requires Acrobat Reader).
Project Vote Smart - American Government, Elections, Candidates and Voting
http://www.vote-smart.org/ Project Vote Smart, a volunteer organization, provides a database of information on U.S. political candidates (at all levels) and issues, with links to many other political/social sources. Can be searched by ZIP Code or browsed by state ("My State").
State and Local Government on the Net: Alabama
http://www.statelocalgov.net/state-al.htm Directory of official state, county, and city government Web sites for Alabama. Maintained by Piper Resources, an Internet publishing firm.
http://www.stateline.org/ The Web site of the Pew Center on the States, University of Richmond, focuses on politics at the state level, providing current and archived news items, background information and statistics on prominent issues, and profiles of the individual states.
The Alabama Cities Index
http://www.alabamainfo.com/cities/ An alphabetically organized list of home pages of most of Alabama's cities.
The Alabama Historical Commission
http://www.preserveala.org/ The Alabama Historical Commission offers a virtual historical tour of the state capitol in Montgomery as well as brief information on other historic sites and preservation programs.