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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Alabama

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State of Alabama
Flag of Alabama State seal of Alabama
Flag of Alabama Seal
Nickname(s): Yellowhammer State, Heart of Dixie
Motto(s): Audemus jura nostra defendere
Map of the United States with Alabama highlighted
Official language(s) English
Spoken language(s) English 96.17%,
Spanish 2.12%
Demonym Alabamian
Capital Montgomery
Largest city Birmingham
(229,424, est. 2006)[1]
Largest metro area Greater Birmingham Area
Area Ranked 30th in the US
– Total 52,419 sq mi
(135,765 km²)
– Width 190 miles (306 km)
– Length 330 miles (531 km)
– % water 3.20
– Latitude 30° 11′ N to 35° N
– Longitude 84° 53′ W to 88° 28′ W
Population Ranked 23rd in the US
– Total 4,447,100
– Density 84.83/sq mi
33.84/km² (26th in the US)
– Highest point Mount Cheaha[2]
2,407 ft (734 m)
– Mean 499 ft (152 m)
– Lowest point Gulf of Mexico[2]
0 ft (0 m)
Admission to Union December 14, 1819 (22nd)
Governor Robert R. Riley (R)
Lieutenant Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. (D)
U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R)
Jeff Sessions (R)
Congressional Delegation List
Time zone Central: UTC-6/DST-5
Abbreviations AL Ala. US-AL
Alabama State Symbols
Living Symbols
Amphibian Red Hills salamander
Bird Yellowhammer, Wild Turkey
Butterfly Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Fish Largemouth bass, Fighting tarpon
Flower Camellia, Oak-leaf Hydrangea
Insect Monarch Butterfly
Mammal American Black Bear, Racking horse
Reptile Alabama red-bellied turtle
Tree Longleaf Pine
Beverage Conecuh Ridge Whiskey
Colors Red, White
Dance Square Dance
Food Pecan, Blackberry, Peach
Fossil Basilosaurus
Gemstone Star Blue Quartz
Mineral Hematite
Rock Marble
Shell Johnstone’s Junonia
Slogan(s) Share The Wonder,
Alabama the beautiful,
Where America finds its voice
Soil Bama
Song(s) Alabama
Route Marker(s)
Alabama Route Marker
Alabama quarter
See Also

The State of Alabama (IPA: /ˌæləˈbæmə/), 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.[3]

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.[4] 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 is Birmingham.


Etymology of state name

The Alabama, an Upper Creek tribe, which resided just below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers on the upper reaches of the Alabama River,[5] served as the etymological source of the names of the river and state. The word Alabama is believed to have originated from the Choctaw language[6] and was later adopted by the Alabama tribe as their name.[7] The spelling of the word varies significantly between sources.[7] The first usage appears in three accounts of the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1540 with Garcilasso de la Vega using Alibamo while the Knight of Elvas and Rodrigo Ranjel wrote Alibamu and Limamu, respectively.[7] As early as 1702, the tribe was known to the French as Alibamon with French maps identifying the river as Rivière des Alibamons.[5] Other spellings of the appellation have included Alibamu, Alabamo, Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alabamu, and Allibamou.[7][8][9] The use of state names derived from Native American languages is common with an estimated 27 states having names of Native American origin.[10]

Although the origin of Alabama was evident, the meaning of the tribe’s name was not always clear. An article without a byline appearing in the Jacksonville Republican on July 27, 1842 originated the idea that the meaning was “Here We Rest.”[7] This notion was popularized in the 1850s through the writings of Alexander Beaufort Meek.[7] Experts in the Muskogean languages have been unable to find any evidence that would support this translation.[5][7] It is now generally accepted that the word comes from the Choctaw words alba (meaning “plants” or “weeds”) and amo (meaning “to cut”, “to trim”, or “to gather”).[7][6][11] This results in translations such as “clearers of the thicket”[6] or even “herb gatherers”[11][12] which may refer to clearing of land for the purpose of planting crops[8] or to collection of medicinal plants by medicine men.[12]


Main article: Geography of Alabama
See also: List of Alabama counties and Geology of Alabama
Alabama terrain map: shows lakes, rivers, roads, with Mount Cheaha (right center) east of Birmingham.

Alabama terrain map: shows lakes, rivers, roads, with Mount Cheaha (right center) east of Birmingham.

Alabama is the 30th largest state in the United States with 52,423 square miles (135,775 km²) of total area: 3.19% of the area is water, making Alabama 23rd in the amount of surface water, also giving it the second largest inland waterway system in the United States.[13] About three-fifths of the land area is a gentle plain with a general descent towards the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The North Alabama region is mostly mountainous, with the Tennessee River cutting a large valley creating numerous creeks, streams, rivers, mountains, and lakes.[14] Another natural wonder in Alabama is “Natural Bridge” rock, the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies, located just south of Haleyville, in Winston County.

Alabama generally ranges in elevation from sea level,[2] down at Mobile Bay, to over 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheaha[14] (see map), at a height of 2,407 ft (733 m).

States bordering Alabama include Tennessee to the north; Georgia to the east; Florida to the south; and Mississippi to the west. Alabama has coastline at the Gulf of Mexico, in the extreme southern edge of the state.[14]

National Parks in Alabama include Horseshoe Bend National Military Park near Alexander City; Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne; Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport; Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee; and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site near Tuskegee.[15]

Alabama also contains the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, and the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail.

Suburban Baldwin County, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in the state in both land area and water area.[16]

A 5-mile (8 km)-wide meteorite impact crater is located in Elmore County, just north of Montgomery. This is the Wetumpka crater, which is the site of “Alabama’s greatest natural disaster”.[17] A 1,000-foot (300 m)-wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago.[18] The hills just east of downtown Wetumpka showcase the eroded remains of the impact crater that was blasted into the bedrock, with the area labeled the Wetumpka crater or astrobleme (“star-wound”) because of the concentric rings of fractures and zones of shattered rock that can be found beneath the surface.[19] In 2002, Christian Koeberl with the Institute of Geochemistry University of Vienna published evidence and established the site as an internationally recognized impact crater.[20]

Urban areas

Birmingham, largest city and metropolitan area

Birmingham, largest city and metropolitan area

Mobile, second largest metropolitan area

Mobile, second largest metropolitan area

Huntsville, third largest metropolitan area

Huntsville, third largest metropolitan area

Main article: List of Metropolitan areas of Alabama
See also: List of cities in Alabama
Rank Metropolitan Area Population
(2007 estimates)
1 Birmingham 1,108,210
2 Mobile 404,406
3 Huntsville 386,632
4 Montgomery 365,962
5 Tuscaloosa 205,218
6 Decatur 149,279
7 Florence-Muscle Shoals 143,149
8 Dothan 139,499
9 Auburn-Opelika 130,516
10 Anniston-Oxford 113,103
11 Gadsden 103,271
total 3,249,245


The climate of Alabama is described as temperate with an average annual temperature of 64 °F (18 °C). Temperatures tend to be warmer in the southern part of the state with its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, while the northern parts of the state, especially in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be slightly cooler.[21] Generally, Alabama has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. Alabama receives an average of 56 inches (1,400 mm) of rainfall annually and enjoys a lengthy growing season of up to 300 days in the southern part of the state.[22]

Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over 90 °F (32 °C) throughout the summer in the entire state. Alabama is also prone to tropical storms and even hurricanes. Areas of the state far away from the Gulf are not immune to the effects of the storms, which often dump tremendous amounts of rain as they move inland and weaken.

Though winters in the state are usually mild, nightly freezing occurs frequently in the North Alabama region.  This is shown in this picture taken at the Old State Bank in Decatur during early January.

Though winters in the state are usually mild, nightly freezing occurs frequently in the North Alabama region. This is shown in this picture taken at the Old State Bank in Decatur during early January.

South Alabama reports more thunderstorms than any part of the U.S. The Gulf Coast, around Mobile Bay, averages between 70 and 80 days per year with thunder reported. This activity decreases somewhat further north in the state, but even the far north of the state reports thunder on about 60 days per year. Occasionally, thunderstorms are severe with frequent lightning and large hail – the central and northern parts of the state are most vulnerable to this type of storm. Alabama ranks seventh in the number of deaths from lightning and ninth in the number of deaths from lightning strikes per capita.[23] Sometimes tornadoes occur – these are common throughout the state, although the peak season for tornadoes varies from the northern to southern parts of the state. Alabama shares the dubious distinction, with Kansas, of having reported more F5 tornadoes than any other state – according to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center for the period 1 January 1950 to 31 October 2006. An F5 tornado is the most powerful of its kind.[24] Several long – tracked F5 tornadoes have contributed to Alabama reporting more tornado fatalities than any other state except for Texas and Mississippi. The Super Outbreak of March, 1974, badly affected Alabama. The northern part of the state – along the Tennessee Valley – is one of the areas in the US most vulnerable to violent tornadoes. The area of Alabama and Mississippi most affected by tornadoes is sometimes referred to as Dixie Alley, as distinct from the Tornado Alley of the Southern Plains. Alabama is one of the few places in the world that has a secondary tornado season (November and December) in addition to the Spring severe weather season.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average January low temperatures around 40 °F (4 °C) in Mobile and around 32 °F (0 °C) in Birmingham. Snow is a rare event in much of Alabama. Areas of the state north of Montgomery may receive a dusting of snow a few times every winter, with an occasional moderately heavy snowfall every few years. In the southern Gulf coast, snowfall is less frequent, sometimes going several years without any snowfall.

Monthly normal high and low temperatures for various Alabama cities[25]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
City temp °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C
Birmingham high 53 12 58 14 66 19 74 23 81 27 88 31 91 33 90 32 85 29 75 24 64 18 56 13
low 32 0 35 2 42 6 48 9 58 14 65 18 70 21 69 21 63 17 51 11 42 6 35 2
Huntsville high 49 9 55 13 63 17 72 22 80 27 86 30 89 32 89 32 83 28 73 23 62 17 52 11
low 31 −1 34 1 41 5 48 9 58 14 65 18 70 21 68 20 62 17 50 10 41 5 34 1
Mobile high 61 16 64 18 71 22 77 25 84 29 89 32 91 33 91 33 87 31 79 26 70 21 63 17
low 40 4 42 6 49 9 55 13 63 17 69 21 72 22 72 22 68 20 56 13 48 9 42 6
Montgomery high 58 14 62 17 70 21 78 26 85 29 91 33 93 34 92 33 88 31 79 26 69 21 60 16
low 36 2 39 4 45 7 51 11 60 16 67 19 71 22 70 21 65 18 52 11 44 7 38 3


Main article: 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.[26] Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC-AD 700) and continued until European contact.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] 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 paramiliatry 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.[32]

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 longlasting.[33]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.[30] 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.”[34]

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.[30] 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.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]


Alabama Population Density map

Alabama Population Density map

Main article: Demographics of Alabama
Historical populations
Census Pop.
1800 1,250
1810 9,046 623.7%
1820 127,901 1313.9%
1830 309,527 142.0%
1840 590,756 90.9%
1850 771,623 30.6%
1860 964,201 25.0%
1870 996,992 3.4%
1880 1,262,505 26.6%
1890 1,513,401 19.9%
1900 1,828,697 20.8%
1910 2,138,093 16.9%
1920 2,348,174 9.8%
1930 2,646,248 12.7%
1940 2,832,961 7.1%
1950 3,061,743 8.1%
1960 3,266,740 6.7%
1970 3,444,165 5.4%
1980 3,893,888 13.1%
1990 4,040,587 3.8%
2000 4,447,100 10.1%
Est. 2007 4,627,851 4.1%

As of 2005, Alabama has an estimated population of 4,557,808,[38] which is an increase of 32,433, or 0.7%, from the prior year and an increase of 110,457, or 2.5%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 77,418 people (that is 319,544 births minus 242,126 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 36,457 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 25,936 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 10,521 people.

The state had 108,000 foreign-born (2.4% of the state population), of which an estimated 22.2% were illegal immigrants (24,000).

The center of population of Alabama is located in Chilton County, outside of the town of Jemison, an area known as Jemison Division.[39]

Race and ancestry

The racial makeup of the state and comparison to the prior census:

Demographics of Alabama (csv)
By race White Black AIAN* Asian NHPI*
2000 (total population) 72.56% 26.33% 1.00% 0.89% 0.07%
2000 (Hispanic only) 1.48% 0.18% 0.04% 0.02% 0.01%
2005 (total population) 72.14% 26.70% 0.98% 1.02% 0.07%
2005 (Hispanic only) 2.08% 0.17% 0.05% 0.03% 0.01%
Growth 2000–05 (total population) 1.90% 3.95% -0.06% 17.43% 4.90%
Growth 2000–05 (non-Hispanic only) 1.02% 3.97% -0.55% 17.47% 6.67%
Growth 2000–05 (Hispanic only) 43.85% 1.05% 11.46% 16.20% -2.17%
* AIAN is American Indian or Alaskan Native; NHPI is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

The largest reported ancestry groups in Alabama: African American (26.0%), American (17.0%), English (7.8%), Irish (7.7%), German (5.7%), and Scots-Irish (2.0%). ‘American’ does not include those reported as Native American.


Alabama is located in the middle of the Bible Belt. In a 2007 survey, nearly 70% of respondents could name all four of the Christian Gospels. Of those who indicated a religious preference, 59% said they possessed a “full understanding” of their faith and needed no further learning.[40] In a 2007 poll, 92% of Alabamians reported having at least some confidence in churches in the state.[41][42]


Alabama's quarter depicting famous resident Helen Keller along with the longleaf pine branch and Camellia blossoms from the 50 State Quarters program. Released March 19, 2003.

Alabama’s quarter depicting famous resident Helen Keller along with the longleaf pine branch and Camellia blossoms from the 50 State Quarters program. Released March 19, 2003.

According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2006 total gross state product was $160 billion, or $29,697 per capita for a ranking of 44th among states. Alabama’s GDP increased 3.1% from 2005, placing Alabama number 23 in terms of state level GDP growth. The single largest increase came in the area of durable goods manufacturing.[43] In 1999, per capita income for the state was $18,189.[44]

Alabama’s agricultural outputs include poultry and eggs, cattle, plant nursery items, peanuts, cotton, grains such as corn and sorghum, vegetables, milk, soybeans, and peaches. Although known as “The Cotton State”, Alabama ranks between eight and ten in national cotton production, according to various reports,[45][46] with Texas, Georgia and Mississippi comprising the top three.

Alabama’s industrial outputs include iron and steel products (including cast-iron and steel pipe); paper, lumber, and wood products; mining (mostly coal); plastic products; cars and trucks; and apparel. Also, Alabama produces aerospace and electronic products, mostly in the Huntsville area, which is home of the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army Missile Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal.

Alabama is also home to the largest industrial growth corridor in the nation, including the surrounding states of Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia. Most of this growth is due to Alabama’s rapidly expanding automotive manufacturing industry. In Alabama alone since 1993, it has generated more than 67,800 new jobs. Alabama currently ranks 2nd in the nation behind Detroit in automobile output. With recent expansions at sites in Alabama, by early 2009 the state will surpass Detroit and become the largest builder of automobiles in North America.

In May 2007, a site north of Mobile was selected by German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp for a $3.7 billion steel production plant, with the promise of 2,700 permanent jobs.[47]

The city of Mobile, Alabama’s only saltwater port, is a busy seaport on the Gulf of Mexico, and with inland waterway access to the Midwest via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Alabama levies a 2, 4, or 5% personal income tax, depending upon the amount earned and filing status. The state’s general sales tax rate is 4%.[48] The collection rate could be substantially higher, depending upon additional city and county sales taxes. The corporate income tax rate is currently 6.5%. The overall federal, state, and local tax burden in Alabama ranks the state as the second least tax-burdened state in the country.[49]

As recently as 2003, Alabama had an annual budget deficit as high as $670 million. It is one of only a few handful of states to accomplish large surpluses, with a budget surplus of nearly $1.2 billion in 2007, and estimated at more than $2.1 billion for 2008. The declining economy may reduce that surplus.


Alabama state welcome sign

Alabama state welcome sign

Alabama has five major interstate roads that cross it: I-65 runs north–south roughly through the middle of the state; I-59/I-20 travels from the central west border to Birmingham, where I-59 continues to the north-east corner of the state and I-20 continues east towards Atlanta; I-85 goes from the border of Georgia and ends in Montgomery, providing a main thoroughfare to Atlanta; and I-10 traverses the southernmost portion of the state, running from west to east through Mobile. Another interstate road, I-22, is currently under construction. When completed around 2012 it will connect Birmingham with Memphis, Tennessee.

Major airports in Alabama include Birmingham International Airport (BHM), Dothan Regional Airport (DHN), Huntsville International Airport (HSV), Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM), Muscle Shoals – Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL), Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (TCL), and Pryor Field Regional Airport (DCU). For rail transport, Amtrak schedules the Crescent, a daily passenger train, running from New York to New Orleans with stops at Anniston, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa.

Water ports

Aerial view of the port of Mobile

Aerial view of the port of Mobile

Listed from north to south

Port name Location Connected to
Port of Muscle Shoals Florence/Muscle Shoals, on Wilson Lake Tennessee River
Port of Decatur Decatur, on Wheeler Lake Tennessee River
Port of Guntersville Guntersville, on Lake Guntersville Tennessee River
Port of Birmingham Birmingham, on Black Warrior River Tenn-Tom Waterway
Port of Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa, on Black Warrior River Tenn-Tom Waterway
Port of Montgomery Montgomery, on Woodruff Lake Alabama River
Port of Mobile Mobile, on Mobile Bay Gulf of Mexico

Law and government

The State Capitol, built in 1850

The State Capitol, built in 1850

State government

Main article: Government of Alabama

The foundational document for Alabama’s government is the Alabama Constitution, which was ratified in 1901. At almost 800 amendments and 310,000 words, it is the world’s longest constitution and is roughly forty times the length of the U.S. Constitution.[50][51] There is a significant movement to rewrite and modernize Alabama’s constitution.[2] This movement is based upon the fact that Alabama’s constitution highly centralizes power in Montgomery and leaves practically no power in local hands. Any policy changes proposed around the state must be approved by the entire Alabama legislature and, frequently, by state referendum. One criticism of the current constitution claims that its complexity and length were intentional to codify segregation and racism.

Alabama is divided into three equal branches:

The legislative branch is the Alabama Legislature, a bicameral assembly composed of the Alabama House of Representatives, with 105 members, and the Alabama Senate, with 35 members. The Legislature is responsible for writing, debating, passing, or defeating state legislation.

The executive branch is responsible for the execution and oversight of laws. It is headed by the Governor of Alabama. Other members of executive branch include the cabinet, the Attorney General of Alabama, the Alabama Secretary of State, the Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, the Alabama State Treasurer, and the Alabama State Auditor.

The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and applying the law in state criminal and civil cases. The highest court is the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Local and county government

Alabama has 67 counties. Each county has its own elected legislative branch, usually called the County Commission, which usually also has executive authority in the county. Due to the restraints placed in the Alabama Constitution, all but seven counties (Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Madison, Montgomery, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa) in the state have little to no home rule. Instead, most counties in the state must lobby the Local Legislation Committee of the state legislature to get simple local policies such as waste disposal to land use zoning.

  • List of Alabama county seats

Alabama is an alcoholic beverage control state; the government holds a monopoly on the sale of alcohol. However, counties can declare themselves “dry”; the state does not sell alcohol in those areas.

State politics

Alabama Governor Bob Riley

Alabama Governor Bob Riley

The current governor of the state is Bob Riley. The lieutenant governor is Jim Folsom Jr. The Democratic Party currently holds a large majority in both houses of the Legislature. Due to the Legislature’s power to override a gubernatorial veto by a mere simple majority (most state Legislatures require a 2/3 majority to override a veto), the relationship between the executive and legislative branches can be easily strained when different parties control the branches.

During Reconstruction following the American Civil War, Alabama was occupied by federal troops of the Third Military District under General John Pope. In 1874, the political coalition known as the Redeemers took control of the state government from the Republicans, in part by suppressing the African American vote through intimidation and terrorism. White supremacy was re-established.

After 1890, a coalition of whites passed laws to segregate and disenfranchise black residents, a process completed in provisions of the 1901 constitution. Provisions which disfranchised African Americans also disfranchised poor whites, however. By 1941 more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 600,000 to 520,000, although the impact was greater on the African-American community, as almost all of its citizens were disfranchised.

From 1901 to the 1960s, the state legislature failed to perform redistricting as population grew and shifted within the state . The result was a rural minority that dominated state politics until a series of court cases required redistricting in 1972.

With the disfranchisement of African Americans, the state became part of the “Solid South”, a one-party system in which the Democratic Party became essentially the only political party in every Southern state. For nearly 100 years, local and state elections in Alabama were decided in the Democratic Party primary, with generally only token Republican challengers running in the General Election.

In the 1986 Democratic primary election, the then-incumbent Lieutenant Governor lost the Democratic nomination for Governor. The state Democratic party invalidated the election and placed the Lieutenant Governor’s name on the ballot as the Democratic candidate instead of the candidate chosen in the primary. The voters of the state revolted at what they perceived as disenfranchisement of their right to vote and elected the Republican challenger Guy Hunt as Governor. This was the first Republican Governor elected in Alabama since Reconstruction. Since then, Republicans have been increasingly elected to state offices until in 2006 Democrats were barely holding a majority in the state legislature. Since 1986, only one Democrat, Don Siegelman, has managed to win the Governor’s office. A corruption probe and eventual trial, the timing of which coincided with the 2006 state primary, relegated Siegelman to one term. Today, the state is mainly Republican.

Alabama state politics gained nationwide and international attention in the 1950s and 1960s during the American Civil Rights Movement, when majority whites bureaucratically, and at times, violently resisted protests for electoral and social reform. George Wallace, the state’s governor, remains a notorious and controversial figure. Only with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 did African Americans regain suffrage and other civil rights.

In 2007, the Alabama Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a resolution expressing “profound regret” over slavery and its lingering impact. In a symbolic ceremony, the bill was signed in the Alabama State Capitol, which served as the first Capital of the Confederate States of America.[52]

National Politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democrat State winner
2004 62.46% 1,176,394 36.84% 693,933 George W. Bush
2000 56.47% 944,409 41.59% 695,602 George W. Bush
1996 50.12% 769,044 43.16% 662,165 Bob Dole
1992 47.65% 804,283 40.88% 690,080 George Bush
1988 59.17% 815,576 39.86% 549,506 George Bush
1984 60.54% 872,849 38.28% 551,899 Ronald Reagan
1980 48.75% 654,192 47.45% 636,730 Ronald Reagan
1976 42.61% 504,070 55.73% 659,170 Jimmy Carter
1972 72.43% 728,701 25.54% 256,923 Richard Nixon
1968* 13.99% 146,923 18.72% 196,579 George Wallace
1964 69.45% 479,085 30.55% 210,732 Barry Goldwater
1960 42.16% 237,981 56.39% 318,303 John F. Kennedy
*State won by George Wallace
of the American Independent Party,
at 65.86%, or 691,425 votes

From 1876 through 1956, Alabama supported only Democratic presidential candidates, by large margins. 1960 was a curious election. The Democrats won with John F. Kennedy on the ballot, but the Democratic electors from Alabama gave 6 of their 11 electoral votes as a protest to Harry Byrd. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater carried the state, in part because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which restored the franchise for African Americans.

In the 1968 presidential election, Alabama supported native son and American Independent Party candidate George Wallace over both Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. In 1976, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter from Georgia carried the state, the region, and the nation, but Democratic control of the region slipped after that.

Since 1980, conservative Alabama voters have increasingly voted for Republican candidates at the Federal level, especially in Presidential elections. By contrast, Democratic candidates have been elected to many state-level offices and comprise a longstanding majority in the Alabama Legislature.

In 2004, George W. Bush won Alabama’s nine electoral votes by a margin of 25 percentage points with 62.5% of the vote, mostly white voters. The eleven counties that voted Democratic were Black Belt counties, where African Americans are the majority racial group.

The state’s two U.S. senators are Jefferson B. Sessions III and Richard C. Shelby, both Republicans.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the state is represented by seven members, five of whom are Republicans: (Jo Bonner, Terry Everett, Mike D. Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Spencer Bachus) and two are Democrats: (Bud Cramer and Artur Davis).

Further information: United States presidential election in Alabama, 2004

Health and education

Primary and secondary education

Public primary and secondary education in Alabama is under the oversight of the Alabama State Board of Education as well as local oversight by 67 county school boards and 60 city boards of education. Together, 1,541 individual schools provide education for 743,364 elementary and secondary students.[53]

Public school funding is appropriated through the Alabama Legislature through the Education Trust Fund. In FY 2006-2007, Alabama appropriated $3,775,163,578 for primary and secondary education. That represented an increase of $444,736,387 over the previous fiscal year.[53]

In 2007, over 82 percent of schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward student proficiency under the National No Child Left Behind law. In 2004, only 23 percent of schools met AYP.[54]

Colleges and universities

Main article: List of colleges and universities in Alabama
Harrison Plaza at the University of North Alabama in Florence. The school was chartered as LaGrange College by the Alabama Legislature in 1830.

Harrison Plaza at the University of North Alabama in Florence. The school was chartered as LaGrange College by the Alabama Legislature in 1830.

Alabama’s programs of higher education include 14 four-year public universities, numerous two-year community colleges, and 17 private, undergraduate and graduate universities. Public, post-secondary education in Alabama is overseen by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Colleges and universities in Alabama offer degree programs from 2-year associate degrees to 16 doctoral level programs. [55]

Accreditation of academic programs is through the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges as well as a variety of subject focused national and international accreditation agencies.[56]

Professional Sports teams

Main article: List of professional sports teams in Alabama
Club Sport League
Birmingham Barons Baseball Southern League
Huntsville Stars Baseball Southern League
Mobile BayBears Baseball Southern League
Montgomery Biscuits Baseball Southern League
Huntsville Havoc Ice hockey Southern Professional Hockey League
Alabama Renegades (Huntsville) Football National Women’s Football Association
Tennessee Valley Vipers (Huntsville) Arena football af2

See also

  • Alabama census statistical areas
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System
  • Alabama Highway Patrol
  • Coat of arms of Alabama
  • List of people from Alabama
  • List of Alabama state symbols
  • Music of Alabama
  • Scouting in Alabama
  • Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture
  • List of law enforcement agencies in Alabama

Cultural sites

The Old State Bank in Decatur

The Old State Bank in Decatur

  • Alabama Shakespeare Festival
  • Alabama Symphony Orchestra
  • The Alabama Theatre
  • Birmingham Astronomical Society
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
  • Birmingham Museum of Art
  • McWane Science Center
  • Old State Bank
  • Old St. Stephens
  • Rhea-McEntire House
  • USS Alabama
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center/U.S. Space Camp Huntsville
  • Vulcan Park


  • Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic
  • Alabama Sports Festival
  • Bayfest, Mobile’s Music Festival
  • Big Spring Jam
  • City Stages Music Festival, Birmingham
  • GMAC Bowl
  • Jubilee City Fest, Montgomery
  • Mardi Gras, Mobile
  • Mobile Bay Jubilee
  • National Peanut Festival
  • Bowl (formerly the Birmingham Bowl)
  • Regions Charity Classic (formerly the Bruno’s Memorial Classic)
  • Senior Bowl
  • Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
  • Spirit of America Festival


  • American Village, Montevallo
  • Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, Birmingham
  • Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
  • Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center (Home of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra), Birmingham
  • Celebration Arena, Priceville
  • Fair Park Arena, Birmingham
  • Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile
  • Joe W. Davis Stadium, Huntsville
  • Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn
  • Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile
  • Legion Field, Birmingham
  • McWane Science Center, Birmingham
  • Mitchell Center, Mobile
  • Mobile Convention Center, Mobile
  • Mobile Civic Center, Mobile
  • Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium, Montgomery
  • Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium, Troy
  • Paul Snow Stadium, Jacksonville
  • Point Mallard Aquatic Center, Decatur
  • Regions Park, Hoover
  • Rickwood Field, Birmingham
  • Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
  • Talladega Superspeedway and the The International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
  • Von Braun Center, Huntsville

Further reading

For a detailed bibliography, see the History of Alabama.
  • Atkins, Leah Rawls, Wayne Flynt, William Warren Rogers, and David Ward. Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (1994)
  • Flynt, Wayne. Alabama in the Twentieth Century (2004)
  • Owen Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography 4 vols. 1921.
  • Jackson, Harvey H. Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State (2004)
  • Mohl, Raymond A. “Latinization in the Heart of Dixie: Hispanics in Late-twentieth-century Alabama” Alabama Review 2002 55(4): 243-274. ISSN 0002-4341
  • Peirce, Neal R. The Deep South States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Seven Deep South States (1974). Information on politics and economics 1960–72.
  • Williams, Benjamin Buford. A Literary History of Alabama: The Nineteenth Century 1979.
  • WPA. Guide to Alabama (1939)
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