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Alabama () is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. 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 is the 30th-most extensive and the 23rd-most populous of the 50 United States. Alabama ranks second in the area of its inland waterways.

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. Despite the growth of major industries and urban centers, white rural interests dominated the state legislature until the 1960s, while urban interests and African Americans were under-represented.[1] Following World War II, Alabama experienced growth as the economy of the state transitioned from agriculture to diversified interests in heavy manufacturing, mineral extraction, education, and technology. In addition, the establishment or expansion of multiple military installations, primarily those of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, added to state jobs.

Alabama is unofficially nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, after 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. The largest city by population is Birmingham. The largest city by total land area is Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile, founded by French colonists.




The Alabama people, a Muskogean-speaking tribe whose members lived just below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers on the upper reaches of the Alabama River,[2] served as the etymological source of the names of the river and state. In the Alabama language, the word for an Alabama person is Albaamo (or variously Albaama or Alb amo in different dialects; the plural form "Alabama persons" is Albaamaha).[3] The word Alabama is believed to have originated from the Choctaw language[4] and was later adopted by the Alabama tribe as their name.[5] The spelling of the word varies significantly between sources.[5] 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.[5] As early as 1702, the tribe was known to the French as Alibamon with French maps identifying the river as Rivi re des Alibamons.[2] Other spellings of the appellation have included Alibamu, Alabamo, Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alabamu, and Allibamou.[5][6][7][8]

Although the origin of Alabama could be discerned, sources disagree on its meaning. An 1842 article in the Jacksonville Republican originated the idea that the meaning was "Here We Rest."[5] This notion was popularized in the 1850s through the writings of Alexander Beaufort Meek.[5] Experts in the Muskogean languages have been unable to find any evidence to support such a translation.[2][5] Scholars believe the word comes from the Choctaw alba (meaning "plants" or "weeds") and amo (meaning "to cut", "to trim", or "to gather").[4][5][9] The meaning may have been "clearers of the thicket"[4] or "herb gatherers"[9][10] which may refer to clearing of land for cultivation[6] or to collecting medicinal plants.[10]

Indigenous peoples, early history

Mount Cheaha, Alabama's highest point

Indigenous peoples of varying cultures lived in the area for thousands of years before European colonization. Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC AD 700) and continued until European contact.[11] The agrarian Mississippian culture covered most of the state from AD 1000 to 1600, with one of its major centers being at the Moundville Archaeological Site in Moundville, Alabama.[12][13] Analysis of artifacts recovered from archaeological excavations at Moundville were the basis of scholars' formulating the characteristics of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC).[14] Contrary to popular belief, the SECC appears to have no direct links to Mesoamerican culture, but developed independently. The Ceremonial Complex represents a major component of the religion of the Mississippian peoples; it is one of the primary means by which their religion is understood.[15]

Among the historical tribes of Native American people living in the area of present-day Alabama at the time of European contact were Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee, and the Muskogean-speaking Alabama (Alibamu), Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, and Mobile.[16]

European settlement

The French founded the first European settlement in the region at Old Mobile, in 1702.[17] The area was French from 1702 to 1763; part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1780. Thomas Bassett was the first British settler in the state. He settled near what is now Tombigbee River in Washington County.[18] Alabama became part of Spanish West Florida from 1780 to 1810; part of the independent Republic of West Florida for a short time (90 days); annexed by the U.S. and added to the Territory of Orleans (1810); and, finally, added to the Mississippi Territory in 1812. Throughout these later developments, however, the Spanish had kept a nominal (although largely ignored) governmental presence in the region, based out of Mobile. When Andrew Jackson's forces occupied Mobile in 1814 while preparing for the Battle of New Orleans he demonstrated the United States' de facto authority over the region, effectively ending Spanish governance (though not its claim), while gaining an unencumbered passage to the gulf.[19]

The area making up today's northern and central Alabama, known as the Yazoo lands, had been claimed by the Province of Georgia after 1767. Following the Revolutionary War, it remained a part of the state of Georgia although heavily disputed. Conflicting claims to the area were held, first by several Native American tribes (most notably the Chickamauga-Cherokee and Yazoo), by other states (e.g. South Carolina); and by the US federal government; Britain and Spain. In 1802, the region was joined to the Mississippi Territory. Individual statehood was delayed, however, by the territory's lack of a coastline.

Statehood, Civil War, and Reconstruction


Alabama was admitted to the Union in 1819 as the 22nd state. Part of the frontier in the 1820s and 1830s, its constitution provided for universal suffrage for white men. Settlers rapidly arrived to take advantage of the fertile soil. Southeastern planters and traders from the Upper South brought slaves with them as the cotton plantations expanded. The economy of the central "Black Belt" (named for its dark, productive soil) was built around large cotton plantations whose owners' wealth grew largely from slave labor.[20] The area also drew many poor, disfranchised people who became subsistence farmers. The 1860 census records show that enslaved Africans comprised 45% of the state's total population of 964,201. There were only 2,690 free persons of color living in Alabama at the time.

From 1826 to 1846, Tuscaloosa served as the capital of Alabama. On January 30, 1846, the Alabama legislature announced that it had voted to remove the capital city from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery. The first legislative session in the new capital met in December 1847. In time, a Capitol building was erected under the direction of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania architect. The original structure burnt down in 1849 but was rebuilt in 1851 following the original plans.[21]

On January 11, 1861, Alabama declared its secession from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. While few battles were fought in the state, Alabama contributed about 120,000 soldiers to the American Civil War. Alabama's slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865.[22] During Reconstruction, the new state legislators created a public school system for the first time, as well as establishing some welfare institutions to help its people. Alabama was officially restored to the Union in 1868.

After the Civil War, the state was still chiefly agricultural, with an economy tied to cotton. Planters resisted working with free labor during Reconstruction and sought to re-establish controls over freedmen. In the early years the Ku Klux Klan had numerous independent chapters in Alabama that attacked freedmen and other Republicans. After it was suppressed, insurgent whites organized paramilitary groups, such as the Red Shirts and White League, that acted more openly to suppress black voting. Regaining power by the late 1870s, in the last decade of the 19th century, white Democrats passed electoral laws disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites.[23] Having regained power in the state legislature, Democrats passed Jim Crow laws, including racial segregation in public facilities, to restore white supremacy in the society.

In 1875, the state passed the Blaine Amendment, to prohibit public money from being used to finance Catholic schools.[24]

1900 1960

School in Alabama (Farm Security Administration, 1935)
School in Alabama (Farm Security Administration, 1935)

The new 1901 Constitution of Alabama effectively disfranchised African Americans and many poor whites through voting restrictions, including literacy requirements. While the planter class had persuaded poor whites to support these legislative efforts, the new restrictions resulted in disfranchising poor whites as well, due mostly to imposition of a cumulative poll tax.

In 1900, 14 Black Belt counties 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 qualified to register, although at least 74,000 black voters were literate.[25]

By 1941, a total of more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 600,000 whites to 520,000 blacks.[25] Nearly all African Americans lost the ability to vote.

The disfranchisement was ended by African Americans' leading the Civil Rights Movement and gaining Federal legislation in the mid-1960s to protect their voting and civil rights. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also protected the suffrage of poor whites.

The rural-dominated Alabama legislature consistently underfunded schools and services for the disfranchised African Americans in the segregated state, but did not relieve them of paying taxes.[20] 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 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 population growth rate in Alabama (see "Historical Populations" table below) dropped by nearly half from 1910 to 1920, reflecting the effect of emigration.

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.[26]

This structure greets drivers visiting the Alabama Welcome Center just inside the AL/GA border off of Interstate 20.

Industrial development related to the demands of World War II brought prosperity.[20] 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 federal integration efforts in schools and public facilities.

1960 present

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 Birmingham.

One result was that Jefferson County, containing Birmingham's industrial and economic powerhouse, contributed more than one-third of all tax revenue to the state, but did not receive a proportional amount in services. Urban interests were consistently underrepresented in the legislature. 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."[1]

African Americans were presumed partial to Republicans for historical reasons, but they were disfranchised. White Alabamans felt bitter towards the Republican Party in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. These factors created a longstanding tradition that any candidate who wanted to be viable with white voters had to run as a Democrat regardless of political beliefs.

During the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved a protection of voting and other civil rights through the passage of the national Civil Rights Act of 1964,[27] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. De jure segregation ended in the states as Jim Crow laws were invalidated or repealed.[28]

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, cases were filed in Federal courts to force Alabama to redistrict by population both the House and Senate of the state legislature. In 1972, for the first time since 1901, the legislature implemented the Alabama constitution's provision for periodic redistricting based on population. This benefited the urban areas that had developed, as well as all in the population who had been underrepresented for more than 60 years.[1]

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 voted increasingly Republican in state elections. In 2010, Republicans won control of both houses of the legislature for the first time in 136 years.[29]



Alabama is the thirtieth-largest state in the United States with of total area: 3.2% 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.[30] 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.[31]

View of Perdido Pass from Orange Beach The states bordering Alabama are 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.[31] Alabama ranges in elevation from sea level[32] at Mobile Bay to over 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheaha,[31] at a height of .[33] Alabama's land consists of of forest or 67% of total land area.[34] Suburban Baldwin County, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in the state in both land area and water area.[35]

Areas in Alabama administered by the National Park Service 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.[36] Additionally, Alabama has four National Forests: Conecuh, Talladega, Tuskegee, and William B. Bankhead.[37] Alabama also contains the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, and the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail. A notable natural wonder in Alabama is "Natural Bridge" rock, the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies, located just south of Haleyville.

A -wide meteorite impact crater is located in Elmore County, just north of Montgomery. This is the Wetumpka crater, the site of "Alabama's greatest natural disaster." A -wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago.[38] 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.[39] In 2002, Christian Koeberl with the Institute of Geochemistry University of Vienna published evidence and established the site as 157th recognized impact crater on Earth.[40]

Urban areas

Birmingham]], largest city and metropolitan area Huntsville]], second-largest metropolitan area Mobile]], third-largest metropolitan area Montgomery]], fourth-largest metropolitan area Tuscaloosa]], fifth-largest metropolitan area

Rank Metropolitan Area Population
(2010 Census)
1 Birmingham-Hoover 1,128,047 Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, Walker
2 Huntsville 417,593 Limestone, Madison
3 Mobile 412,992 Mobile
4 Montgomery 374,536 Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery
5 Tuscaloosa 219,461 Greene, Hale, Tuscaloosa
6 Decatur 153,829 Lawrence, Morgan
7 Florence-Muscle Shoals 147,137 Colbert, Lauderdale
8 Dothan 145,639 Geneva, Henry, Houston
9 Auburn-Opelika 140,247 Lee
10 Anniston-Oxford 112,249 Calhoun
11 Gadsden 104,430 Etowah
Total 3,362,483
Rank City Population
(2010 Census)
1 Birmingham 212,237 Jefferson
2 Montgomery 205,764 Montgomery
3 Mobile 195,111 Mobile
4 Huntsville 180,105 Madison
5 Tuscaloosa 90,468 Tuscaloosa
6 Hoover 81,619 Jefferson
7 Dothan 65,496 Houston
8 Decatur 55,683 Morgan
9 Auburn 53,380 Lee
10 Madison 42,938 Madison
11 Florence 39,319 Lauderdale
12 Gadsden 36,856 Etowah
13 Vestavia Hills 34,033 Jefferson
14 Prattville 33,960 Autauga
15 Phenix City 32,822 Russell


The state is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa) under the Koppen Climate Classification.[41] The average annual temperature is 64  F (18  C). Temperatures tend to be warmer in the southern part of the state with its 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.[42] Generally, Alabama has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. Alabama receives an average of of rainfall annually and enjoys a lengthy growing season of up to 300 days in the southern part of the state.[42]

Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over throughout the summer in some parts of the 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.

Decatur]] during early January.

South Alabama reports many thunderstorms. 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.[43]

Alabama, along with Kansas, has the most reported EF5 tornadoes of any state according to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center for the period January 1, 1950, to October 31, 2006.[44] Several long tracked F5 tornadoes have contributed to Alabama reporting more tornado fatalities than any other state, even surpassing Texas which has a much larger area within Tornado Alley. The state suffered damage in the Super Outbreak of April 1974, and the April 25 28, 2011 tornado outbreak. The outbreak in April 2011 produced a record amount of tornadoes in the state. The tally reached 62.[45]

The peak season for tornadoes varies from the northern to southern parts of the state. Alabama is one of the few places in the world that has a secondary tornado season in November and December, along with the spring severe weather season. The northern part of the state along the Tennessee Valley is one of the areas in the U.S. 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.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average January low temperatures around in Mobile and around in Birmingham. Although 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. Historic snowfall events include New Year's Eve 1963 snowstorm and the 1993 Storm of the Century. The annual average snowfall for the Birmingham area is per year. In the southern Gulf coast, snowfall is less frequent, sometimes going several years without any snowfall.

Alabama's highest recorded temperature of was recorded on September 5, 1925 in the unincorporated community of Centerville. was the state's record low recorded in 1966 in New Market.


Alabama population density map

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Alabama was 4,802,740 on July 1, 2011, a 0.48% increase since the 2010 United States Census.[50]

The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2008, estimated Alabama's population at 4,661,900,[51] which represents an increase of 214,545, or 4.8%, since the last census in 2000.[52] This includes a natural increase since the last census of 121,054 people (that is 502,457 births minus 381,403 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 104,991 people into the state.[52] Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 31,180 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 73,811 people.[52] 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.[53]

Race and ancestry

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Alabama had a population of 4,779,736. In terms of race and ethnicity, the state was 68.5% White (67.0% Non-Hispanic White Alone), 26.2% Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.1% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 2.0% from Some Other Race, and 1.5% from Two or More Races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 3.9% of the population.[54]

The largest reported ancestry groups in Alabama are: African American (26.2%), English (23.6%), Irish (7.7%), German (5.7%), and Scots-Irish (2.0%).[55][56][57] Those citing "American" ancestry in Alabama are of overwhelmingly English extraction, however most English Americans identify simply as having American ancestry because their roots have been in North America for so long, in some cases since the 1600s. Demographers estimate that a minimum of 20 23% of people in Alabama are of predominantly English ancestry and state that the figure is probably much higher. In the 1980 census, 41% of the people in Alabama cited that they were of English ancestry, making them the largest ethnic group at the time.[58][59][60][61][62] There are also many more people in Alabama of Scots-Irish origins than are self-reported.[63] Many people in Alabama claim Irish ancestry because of the term Scots-Irish, but most of the time in Alabama this term is used for those with Scottish roots, rather than Irish.[64]

In 1984, under the Davis Strong Act, Alabama established a state Indian Commission and officially recognized seven American Indian tribes, including the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, which is a 501 (c)(3) group. It is made up of descendants of the Chickamauga Cherokee and others who managed to evade Indian Removal in the 1830s. Working with Auburn University, the tribe has begun a revival of the Cherokee language.


Alabama is located in the middle of the Bible Belt, a region of high Christian followers. Alabama has been identified as one of the most religious states in the US, with about 58% of the population attending church regularly.[65] A majority of people in the state identify as Protestant. As of 2000, the three largest denominational groups in Alabama are Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, and Catholic. The Southern Baptist Convention has the highest number of adherents in Alabama with 1,380,121, followed by the United Methodist Church with 327,734 members, and the Catholic Church with 150,647 adherents.[66]

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.[67] In a 2007 poll, 92% of Alabamians reported having at least some confidence in churches in the state.[68][69] In the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 80% of Alabama respondents reported their religion as Christian (other than Catholic,) 6% as Catholic, and 11% as having no religion at all.[70]


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that Alabama was one of the worst in the country for obesity with most counties having over 29% of adults obese, except for ten which exceeded 26%.[71] Residents were least likely of any state in the nation to exercise.[72] Alabama has one of the highest incidences of adult onset diabetes in the country, exceeding 10% of adults.[73][74]


The state has invested in aerospace, education, health care, banking, and various heavy industries, including automobile manufacturing, mineral extraction, steel production and fabrication.

According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2008 total gross state product was $170 billion, or $29,411 per capita. Alabama's 2008 GDP increased 0.7% from the previous year. The single largest increase came in the area of information.[75] In 2010, per capita income for the state was $22,984.[76]

As of September 2010, the state's unemployment rate is 8.9%.[77]

Largest employers

Twin MIM-14 Nike-Hercules Missiles at the Redstone Arsenal base

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, the five employers which employs the most employees in Alabama as of 2011 were:[78]

Employer Number of employees
Redstone Arsenal 25,373
University of Alabama at Birmingham (includes UAB Hospital) 18,750
Maxwell Air Force Base 12,280
State of Alabama 9,500
Mobile County Public School System 8,100


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 eighth and tenth in national cotton production, according to various reports,[79][80] 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, location of NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army Materiel Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal.

Most Alabama's economic growth is due to the state's expanding automotive manufacturing industry. Located in the state are Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, as well as their various suppliers. Since 1993, the automobile industry has generated more than 67,800 new jobs in the state. Alabama currently ranks 4th in the nation in automobile output.[81]

Steel producers Nucor, SSAB, ThyssenKrupp, and U.S. Steel have facilities in Alabama and employ over 10,000 people. In May 2007, German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp selected Alabama for a $3.7 billion steel production plant, with the promise of 2,700 permanent jobs.[82] When ThyssenKrupp's new facilities reach full production capacity, Alabama is expected to become the third largest steel producing state in the country behind Indiana and Pennsylvania.[83]

The Hunt Refining Company, a subsidiary of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., is based in Tuscaloosa and operates a refinery there. The company also operates terminals in Mobile, Melvin, and Moundville.[84] JVC America, Inc. operates an optical disc replication and packaging plant in Tuscaloosa.[85]

Michelin North America operated a BFGoodrich Tire manufacturing plant in Opelika from 1963 to 2009, when it shut down.[86] GAF Materials Corporation formerly operated a plant in Mobile, but ceased production operations in 2010. The plant had previously been idled in 2007 before resuming in 2008 and may reopen in the future once demand recovers.[87]


Alabama's beaches have a strong impact on the state's economy

An estimated 100,000 tourists annually from other countries visit the state, including from Canada, England, Germany and Japan. In 2006, 22.3 million tourists spent $8.3 billion providing an estimated 162,000 jobs in the state.[88][89][90]


UAB Hospital is the only Level I trauma center in Alabama.[91][92] UAB is the largest state government employer in Alabama, with a workforce of about 18,000.[93]


Alabama has the headquarters of Regions Financial Corporation, BBVA Compass and Superior Bancorp. Birmingham-based Compass Banchshares was acquired by Spanish-based BBVA in September 2007, although the headquarters of BBVA Compass remains in Birmingham. In November 2006, Regions Financial completed its merger with AmSouth Bancorporation, which was also headquartered in Birmingham. SouthTrust Corporation, another large bank headquartered in Birmingham, was acquired by Wachovia in 2004 for $14.3 billion. The city still has major operations for Wachovia and its now post-operating bank Wells Fargo, which includes a regional headquarters, an operations center campus and a $400 million dollar data center. Nearly a dozen smaller banks are also headquartered in the Birmingham, such as Superior Bancorp, ServisFirst and New South Federal Savings Bank. Birmingham also serves as the headquarters for several large investment management companies, including Harbert Management Corporation.


Telecommunications provider AT&T, formerly BellSouth, also has a major presence in Alabama with several large offices in Birmingham. The company has over 6,000 employees and more than 1,200 contract employees.

Many commercial technology companies are headquartered in Huntsville, such as the network access company ADTRAN, computer graphics company Intergraph, design and manufacturer of IT infrastructure Avocent, and telecommunications provider Deltacom. Cinram manufactures and distributes 20th Century Fox DVDs and Blu-ray Discs out of their Huntsville plant.


Rust International has grown to include Brasfield & Gorrie, BE&K, Hoar Construction and B.L. Harbert International, which all routinely are included in the Engineering News-Record lists of top design, international construction, and engineering firms. (Rust International was acquired in 2000 by Washington Group International, which was in turn acquired by San-Francisco based URS Corporation in 2007.)


The Port of Mobile, Alabama's only saltwater port, is a busy seaport on the Gulf of Mexico with inland waterway access to the Midwest by way of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The Port of Mobile is currently the 9th-largest by tonnage in the United States.[94]

Barge transportation in and out of the Port of Tuscaloosa and other commercial navigation make the Black Warrior River useful in the state of Alabama.

Law and government

State Capitol]], built in 1850

State government

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.[95][96] There is a significant movement to rewrite and modernize Alabama's constitution.[97] 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 Republican Party currently holds a majority in both houses of the Legislature. The Legislature has the power to override a gubernatorial veto by a simple majority (most state Legislatures require a two-thirds majority to override a veto).

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 State Auditor of Alabama. The current governor of the state is Republican Robert Bentley. The lieutenant governor is Republican Kay Ivey.

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. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is Republican Chuck Malone. All sitting justices on the Alabama Supreme Court are members of the Republican Party.

The members of the Legislature take office immediately after the November elections. The statewide officials, such as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and other constitutional offices take office in the following January.[98]


Alabama levies a 2, 4, or 5 percent personal income tax, depending upon the amount earned and filing status. Taxpayers are allowed to deduct their federal income tax from their Alabama state tax, and can do so even if taking the standard deduction. Taxpayers who file itemized deductions are also allowed to deduct federal Social Security and Medicare taxes.

The state's general sales tax rate is 4%.[99] The collection rate could be substantially higher, depending upon additional city and county sales taxes. For example, the total sales tax rate in Mobile is 10% and there is an additional restaurant tax of 1%, which means that a diner in Mobile would pay a 11% tax on a meal. Sales and excise taxes in Alabama account for 51% of all state and local revenue, compared with an average of about 36% nationwide. Alabama is also one of the few remaining states that levies a tax on food and medicine. Alabama's income tax on poor working families is among the nation's very highest.[100] Alabama is the only state that levies income tax on a family of four with income as low as $4,600, which is barely one-quarter of the federal poverty line.[100] Alabama's threshold is the lowest among the 41 states and the District of Columbia with income taxes.[100]

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.[101] Property taxes are the lowest in the United States. The current state constitution requires a voter referendum to raise property taxes.

Since Alabama's tax structure largely depends on consumer spending, it is subject to high variable budget structure. For example, in 2003 Alabama had an annual budget deficit as high as $670 million.

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. Because of 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.

On November 9, 2011 Jefferson County declared bankruptcy.[102][103]

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.

  • List of counties in Alabama
Rank County Population
(2010 Census)
Seat Largest city
1 Jefferson 658,466 Birmingham Birmingham
2 Mobile 412,992 Mobile Mobile
3 Madison 334,811 Huntsville Huntsville
4 Montgomery 229,363 Montgomery Montgomery
5 Shelby 195,085 Columbiana Hoover (part)
6 Tuscaloosa 194,656 Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa
7 Baldwin 182,265 Bay Minette Daphne
8 Lee 140,247 Opelika Auburn
9 Morgan 119,490 Decatur Decatur
10 Calhoun 118,572 Anniston Anniston


Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

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.

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 through the 1960s, the state did not redraw election districts 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.

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. Democrat George Wallace, the state's only four-term governor, was a controversial figure. Only with the passage of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964[27] and Voting Rights Act of 1965 did African-Americans regain suffrage and other civil rights.

In 2007, the Alabama Legislature passed, and Republican Governor Bob Riley 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 housed Congress of the Confederate States of America.[104]


State elections

With the disfranchisement of African Americans, the state became part of the "Solid South", a 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.

Republicans hold all nine seats on the Alabama Supreme Court[105] and all ten seats on the state appellate courts. Until 1994, no Republicans held any of the court seats. This change also began, likely in part, due to the same perception by voters of Democratic party efforts to disenfranchise voters again in 1994. In that general election, the then-incumbent Chief Justice of Alabama, Ernest C. Hornsby, refused to leave office after losing the election by approximately 3,000 votes to Republican Perry O. Hooper, Sr.. Hornsby sued Alabama and defiantly remained in office for nearly a year before finally giving up the seat after losing in court. This ultimately led to a collapse of support for Democrats at the ballot box in the next three or four election cycles. The Democrats lost the last of the nineteen court seats in August 2011 with the resignation of the last Democrat on the bench.

Republicans hold all seven of the statewide elected executive branch offices. Republicans hold six of the eight elected seats on the Alabama State Board of Education. In 2010, Republicans took large majorities of both chambers of the state legislature giving them control of that body for the first time in 136 years. Democrats hold one of the three seats on the Alabama Public Service Commission.[106][107][108]

Only two Republican Lieutenant Governors have been elected since Reconstruction, one is Kay Ivey, the current Lieutenant Governor.

Local elections

Many local offices (County Commissioners, Boards of Education, Tax Assessors, Tax Collectors, etc.) in the state are still held by Democrats. Local elections in most rural counties are generally decided in the Democratic primary and local elections in metropolitan and suburban counties are generally decided in the Republican Primary, although there are exceptions.[109][110]

Alabama's 67 County Sheriffs are elected in partisan races and Democrats still retain the majority of those posts. The current split is 42 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and one Independent (Choctaw).[111] However, most of the Democratic sheriffs preside over rural and less populated counties and the majority of Republican sheriffs preside over more urban/suburban and heavily populated counties.[112] Two Alabama counties (Montgomery and Calhoun) with a population of over 100,000 have Democratic sheriffs and five Alabama counties with a population of under 75,000 have Republican sheriffs (Autauga, Coffee, Dale, Coosa, and Blount).[113] The state has one female sheriff (Morgan) and nine African-American sheriffs.[114]

Federal elections

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, six of whom are Republicans: (Jo Bonner, Mike D. Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Morris J. Brooks, Martha Roby, and Spencer Bachus) and one Democrat: Terri Sewell).


Primary and secondary education

Public primary and secondary education in Alabama is under the overview 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.[115]

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.[115] In 2007, over 82 percent of schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward student proficiency under the National No Child Left Behind law, using measures determined by the State of Alabama. In 2004, 23 percent of schools met AYP.[116]

While Alabama's public education system has improved, it lags behind in achievement compared to other states. According to U.S. Census data, Alabama's high school graduation rate 75% is the fourth lowest in the United States (after Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi).[117] The largest educational gains were among people with some college education but without degrees.[118]

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

Colleges and universities

Alabama's programs of higher education include 14 four-year public universities, two-year community colleges, and 17 private, undergraduate and graduate universities. In the state are two medical schools (University of Alabama School of Medicine and University of South Alabama), two veterinary colleges (Auburn University and Tuskegee University), a dental school (University of Alabama School of Dentistry), an optometry college (University of Alabama at Birmingham), two pharmacy schools (Auburn University and Samford University), and five law schools (University of Alabama School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, Cumberland School of Law, Miles Law School, and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law). Public, post-secondary education in Alabama is overseen by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Colleges and universities in Alabama offer degree programs from two-year associate degrees to 16 doctoral level programs.[119][120]

The largest single campus is the University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa, with 31,747 enrolled for fall 2011.[121] Troy University is the largest institution in the state, enrolling 29,689 students (as of 2010) across four Alabama campuses (Troy, Dothan, Montgomery, and Phenix City), as well as sixty learning sites in seventeen other states and eleven other countries. The oldest institutions are the public University of North Alabama in Florence and the Catholic Church-affiliated Spring Hill College in Mobile, both founded in 1830.[122][123]

Accreditation of academic programs is through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as well as other subject-focused national and international accreditation agencies such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE),[124] the Council on Occupational Education (COE),[125] and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).[126]

According to the 2011 U.S. News and World Report, Alabama had three universities ranked in the top 100 Public Schools in America (University of Alabama at 31, Auburn University at 36, and University of Alabama at Birmingham at 73).[127]


Professional sports teams

Mobile]] Von Braun Center in Huntsville

Alabama has several minor league professional teams including four minor league baseball teams.

Team name Location Sport League Venue Notes
Alabama Hammers Huntsville Arena football Southern Indoor Football League Von Braun Center
Birmingham Barons Birmingham Baseball Southern League Regions Park
Huntsville Havoc Huntsville Ice Hockey Southern Professional Hockey League Von Braun Center
Dixie Derby Girls Huntsville Roller derby Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Von Braun Center |- Huntsville Stars Huntsville Baseball Southern League Joe W. Davis Stadium
Mobile BayBears Mobile Baseball Southern League Hank Aaron Stadium
Montgomery Biscuits Montgomery Baseball Southern League Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium
Rocket City United Huntsville Soccer National Premier Soccer League Madison City Schools Stadium
Tennessee Valley Tigers Huntsville Football Independent Women's Football League Milton Frank Stadium replaced the Alabama Renegades


Bryant-Denny Stadium

Alabama has four of the world's largest stadiums by seating capacity: Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn and Legion Field in Birmingham.

The Talladega Superspeedway motorsports complex hosts a series of NASCAR events. It has a seating capacity of 143,000 and is the thirteenth largest stadium in the world and sixth largest stadium in America. Bryant-Denny Stadium serves as the home of the University of Alabama football team has a seating capacity of 101,821. It is the fifth largest stadium in America and the eighth largest non-racing stadium in the world. Jordan-Hare Stadium is the home field of the Auburn University football team and has a seating capacity of 87,451. It is the twelfth largest college football stadium in America. Legion Field is home for the UAB Blazers football program and the Bowl. It seats 71,594.[128][129]

Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile serves as the home of the NCAA Senior Bowl, Bowl, Alabama-Mississippi All Star Classic and home of the University of South Alabama football team. Ladd-Peebles Stadium opened in 1948 and seats 40,646.[130]

In 2009, Bryant-Denny Stadium and Jordan-Hare Stadium became the homes of the Alabama High School Athletic Association state football championship games, known as the Super Six. Bryant-Denny hosts the Super Six in odd-numbered years, with Jordan-Hare taking the games in even-numbered years. Previously, the Super Six was held at Legion Field in Birmingham.[131]


Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Air transportation

Major airports in Alabama include Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), Huntsville International Airport (HSV), Dothan Regional Airport (DHN), 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.


Interstate 59 (co-signed with Interstate 20) approaching Interstate 65 in downtown Birmingham. Interstate 565 passing by the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Mobile]] as it approaches the Wallace Tunnel.

Alabama has five major interstate roads that cross the state: 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 originates in Montgomery and runs east-northeast to the Georgia border, 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 2014 it will connect Birmingham with Memphis, Tennessee. In addition, there are currently five auxiliary interstate routes in the state: I-165 in Mobile, I-359 in Tuscaloosa, I-459 around Birmingham, I-565 in Huntsville, and I-759 in Gadsden. A sixth route, I-685, will be created when I-85 is rerouted along a new southern bypass of Montgomery. A proposed northern bypass of Birmingham will designated as I-422.

Several U.S. Highways also pass through the state, such as US 11, US 29, US 31, US 43, US 45, US 72, US 78, US 80, US 82, US 84, US 90, US 98, US 231, US 278, US 280, US 331, US 411, and US 431.

There are four toll roads in the state: Montgomery Expressway in Montgomery; Tuscaloosa Bypass in Tuscaloosa; Emerald Mountain Expressway in Wetumpka; and Beach Express in Orange Beach.

In March 2011, Alabama ranked among the top five "Worst" states on the American State Litter Scorecard, for overall poor effectiveness and quality of its statewide public space cleanliness primarily roadway and adjacent litter removals from state and related efforts.[132]


Aerial view of the port of Mobile

Alabama has one seaport, in Mobile on the Gulf of Mexico. The state's other ports are on rivers with access to the Gulf.

Water ports of Alabama, listed from north to south:

Port name Location Connected to
Port of Florence Florence/Muscle Shoals, on Pickwick 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

See also

  • Outline of Alabama
  • Index of Alabama-related articles
  • List of people from Alabama
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Alabama


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)

External links

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