U.S. State History: Alabama

The beautiful state of Alabama has a lot to offer the overall peaceful residents who live there. Being located on the Gulf Shore, residents who live near the southern border of the state get to enjoy the fun and excitement of a beach town in the heart of one of America’s highly profitable, provider of agricultural goods.

Alabama first joined the Union as the 22nd state in 1819. It is located in the southern United States and is known as the “Heart of Dixie.” The part of the United States that became the state of Alabama was occupied by American Indians as early as 10,000 years ago.

In Antebellum Alabama, wealthy planters created large cotton plantations based in the fertile central Black Belt of the upland region, which depended on the labor of enslaved African-Americans. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported to and sold in the state by slave traders, who purchased them in the Upper South.

In other parts of the state, poorer whites practiced subsistence farming. By 1860, blacks (nearly all slaves) comprised 45% of the state’s 965-201 people.

Europeans reached the area during the 16th century. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, cotton and slave labor were the biggest parts of Alabama’s economy. The slave labor played an important role in the American Civil War. The capital of Alabama, Montgomery, was the Confederacy’s first capital.

After the war, the segregation of blacks and whites prevailed throughout most of the South. In the mid-20th century, Alabama was at the center of the American Civil Rights Movement and home to such important events as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the early 21st century, the state’s economy was fueled in part by jobs in aerospace, agriculture, auto production and the service sector.

Between the years of 1910 and 1940 tens of thousands of African Americans migrated out of Alabama in the Great Migration to seek jobs, education for their children, and freedom from lynching in northern and Midwestern cities, such as St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.

Quick Facts About the State of Alabama

  • Date of Statehood: December 14, 1819
  • Capital: Montgomery
  • Population: 4,779,736 (2010
  • Size: 52,420 square miles
  • Nickname(s): The Yellowhammer State; The Heart of Dixie; The Cotton State
  • Motto: Audemus jura nostra defendere (“We dare maintain our rights”)
  • Tree: Southern Longleaf Pine
  • Flower: Camellia
  • Bird: Yellowhammer Woodpecker (Northern Flicker)

More Interesting Details about The Heart of Dixie

A Monument to an Insect

In 1919, a monument was erected in the City of Enterprise in recognition of an insect, the boll weevil. The destructive pest helped to save the county’s economy by encouraging farmers to grow more profitable crops, such as peanuts, instead of traditional cotton. This move helped to improve the county’s economy and turned a bad situation into something very good.

Strange Prohibition Hideouts

During the Prohibition years, avid drinkers would gather in the strangest places to enjoy their favorite beverage. The DeSoto Caverns located near the City of Birmingham contains a 2,000-year old Native American burial site. But while alcohol was banned throughout the country, it served as an underground speakeasy with dancing and gambling.

Christmas in Dixie

If you love the holiday season, you can thank the state of Alabama for being the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday in 1836.

Desegregation in the Military

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American flying unit in the United States Military. They were also trained in the state of Alabama. They had a successful combat record, which included the accumulation of more than 850 medals. This was an important factor in President Truman’s decision to desegregate the armed forces in 1948.

The Selma Marches and Earning the Right to Vote

In 1965, during the time when African-Americans were still not allowed to vote, thousands of non-violent protesters joined in a 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery to bring awareness to the injustice that African-Americans faced while they attempted to achieve the right to vote. Five months later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act prohibiting discriminatory voting practices.

With the city of Birmingham being the center of industry and population in Alabama, the civil rights leaders chose to mount a campaign there for desegregation in 1963. Schools, restaurants, and department stores were segregated, no African Americans were hired to work in stores where they shopped or in the city government support in part by their taxes. There were no African=American members in the police force. And despite segregation, African Americans had been advancing economically.

During President Kennedy’s time in office, he supported Civil Rights legislation. In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson helped secure its passage and signed the Civil Rights Act. The Selma to Montgomery marches attracted national and international press and TV coverage. The nation was horrified to see peaceful protesters beaten as they entered the county. That year, when Johnson passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he could gain federal oversight and enforcement to ensure the ability of all citizens to vote.