The State of Alabama, is located in the southern region of the United States of America. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland waterways. The state ranks 23rd in population with almost 4.6 million residents in 2006.
From the American Civil War until World War II, Alabama, like many Southern States, suffered economic hardship, in part because of continued dependence on agriculture. More significantly, white rural, minority domination of the legislature until the 1960s meant that urban, contemporary interests were consistently underrepresented. In the years following the war, Alabama experienced significant recovery as the economy of the state transitioned from agriculture to diversified interests in heavy manufacturing, mineral extraction, education, and high technology. Today, the state is heavily invested in aerospace, education, health care, and banking, and various heavy industries including automobile manufacturing, mineral extraction, steel production and fabrication.
Alabama is unofficially nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, which is also the name of the state bird. Alabama is also known as the "Heart of Dixie". The state tree is the Longleaf Pine, the state flower is the Camellia. The capital of Alabama is Montgomery, and the largest city by population is Birmingham. The largest city by total land area is Huntsville.
History of Alabama
Among the Native American people once living in the area of present day Alabama were Alabama (Alibamu), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, and Mobile. Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC-AD 700) and continued until European contact. Meso-American influence is evident in the agrarian Mississippian culture that followed.
The French founded the first European settlement in the state with the establishment of Mobile in 1702. Southern Alabama was French from 1702 to 1763, part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1780, and part of Spanish West Florida from 1780 to 1814. Northern and central Alabama was part of British Georgia from 1763 to 1783 and part of the American Mississippi territory thereafter. Its statehood was delayed by the lack of a coastline; rectified when Andrew Jackson captured Spanish Mobile in 1814. Alabama was the twenty-second state admitted to the Union, in 1819.
Alabama was the new frontier in the 1820s and 1830s. Settlers rapidly arrived to take advantage of fertile soils. Planters brought slaves with them, and traders brought in more from the Upper South as the cotton plantations expanded. The economy of the central "Black Belt" featured large cotton plantations whose owners built their wealth on the labor of enslaved African Americans. It was named for the dark, fertile soil. Elsewhere poor whites were subsistence farmers. According to the 1860 census, enslaved Africans comprised 45% of the state′s population of 964,201. There were only 2,690 free persons of color.
In 1861 Alabama seceded from the Union to join the Confederate States of America. While not many battles were fought in the state, Alabama contributed about 120,000 soldiers to the Civil War. All the slaves were freed by 1865. Following Reconstruction, Alabama was readmitted to the Union in 1868.
After the Civil War, the state was still chiefly rural and tied to cotton. Planters resisted working with free labor and sought to re-establish controls over African Americans. Whites used paramilitary groups, Jim Crow laws and segregation to reduce freedoms of African Americans and restore their own dominance.
In its new constitution of 1901, the elite-dominated legislature effectively disfranchised African Americans through voting restrictions. While the planter class had engaged poor whites in supporting these efforts, the new restrictions resulted in disfranchising poor whites as well. By 1941 a total of more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 600,000 whites to 520,000 blacks. This was due mostly to effects of the cumulative poll tax.
The damage to the African-American community was more pervasive, as nearly all its citizens lost the ability to vote. In 1900 fourteen Black Belt counties (which were primarily African American) had more than 79,000 voters on the rolls. By June 1, 1903, the number of registered voters had dropped to 1,081. In 1900 Alabama had more than 181,000 African Americans eligible to vote. By 1903 only 2,980 had managed to "qualify" to register, although at least 74,000 black voters were literate. The shut out was long-lasting. The disfranchisement was ended only by African Americans′ leading the Civil Rights Movement and gaining Federal legislation in the mid-1960s to protect their voting and civil rights. Such legislation also protected the rights of poor whites.
The rural-dominated legislature continued to underfund schools and services for African Americans in the segregated state, but did not relieve them of paying taxes. Continued racial discrimination, agricultural depression, and the failure of the cotton crops due to boll weevil infestation led tens of thousands of African Americans to seek out opportunities in northern cities. They left Alabama in the early 20th century as part of the Great Migration to industrial jobs and better futures in northern industrial cities. The rate of population growth rate in Alabama (see table) dropped by nearly half from 1910-1920, reflecting the outmigration.
At the same time, many rural whites and blacks migrated to the city of Birmingham for work in new industrial jobs. It experienced such rapid growth that it was nicknamed "The Magic City." By the 1920s, Birmingham was the 19th largest city in the U.S. and held more than 30% of the population of the state. Heavy industry and mining were the basis of the economy.
Despite massive population changes in the state from 1901 to 1961, the rural-dominated legislature refused to reapportion House and Senate seats based on population. They held on to old representation to maintain political and economic power in agricultural areas. In addition, the state legislature gerrymandered the few Birmingham legislative seats to ensure election by persons living outside of Birmingham.
One result was that Jefferson County, home of Birmingham′s industrial and economic powerhouse, contributed more than one-third of all tax revenue to the state. It received back only 1/67th of the tax money, as the state legislature ensured that taxes were distributed equally to each county regardless of population. Urban interests were consistently underrepresented. A 1960 study noted that because of rural domination, "A minority of about 25 per cent of the total state population is in majority control of the Alabama legislature."
Because of the long disfranchisement of African Americans, the state continued as one-party Democratic for decades. It produced a number of national leaders. Industrial development related to the demands of World War II brought prosperity. Cotton faded in importance as the state developed a manufacturing and service base. In the 1960s under Governor George Wallace, many whites in the state opposed integration efforts.
By the moral crusade of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved a restoration of voting and other civil rights through the passage of the national Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. De jure segregation ended in the states as Jim Crow laws were invalidated or repealed.
Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, cases were filed in Federal courts to force Alabama to properly redistrict by population both the state legislature House and Senate. In 1972, for the first time since 1901, the Alabama constitution′s provision for periodic redistricting based on population was implemented. This benefited the many urban areas that had developed, and all in the population who had been underrepresented for more than 60 years.
After 1972, the state′s white voters shifted much of their support to Republican candidates in presidential elections (as also occurred in neighboring southern states). Since 1990 the majority of whites in the state have also voted increasingly Republican in state elections.
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