State of Alabama
Flag of Alabama State seal of Alabama
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Yellowhammer State, Heart of Dixie, The Cotton State
Motto(s): Latin: Audemus iura nostra defendere We dare defend our rights
Map of the United States with Alabama highlighted
Official language English
Spoken languages

As of 2010

  • English 95.1%
  • Spanish 3.1%
Demonym Alabamian
Capital Montgomery
Largest city Birmingham
Largest metro Birmingham metropolitan area
Area Ranked 30th
 - Total 52,419 sq mi
(135,765 km2)
 - Width 190 miles (305 km)
 - Length 330 miles (531 km)
 - % water 3.20
 - Latitude 30° 11′ N to 35° N
 - Longitude 84° 53′ W to 88° 28′ W
Number of people Ranked 24th
 - Total 4,863,300 (2016 est.)
 - Density 94.7 (2011 est.)/sq mi  (36.5 (2011 est.)/km2)
Ranked 27th
 - Average income $44,509 (47th)
Height above sea level
 - Highest point Mount Cheaha
2,413 ft (735.5 m)
 - Average 500 ft  (150 m)
 - Lowest point Gulf of Mexico
sea level
Became part of the U.S. December 14, 1819 (22nd)
Governor Robert J. Bentley (R)
U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R)
Luther Strange (R)
U.S. House delegation 6 Republicans, 1 Democrat (list)
Time zones  
 - most of state Central: UTC −6/−5
 - Phenix City, Alabama area Eastern: UTC −5/−4
Abbreviations AL, Ala. US-AL
Website alabama.gov
Alabama State symbols
Flag of Alabama.svg
The Flag of Alabama.

Seal of Alabama.svg
The Seal of Alabama.

Animate insignia
Amphibian Red Hills salamander
Bird(s) Yellowhammer, wild turkey
Butterfly Eastern tiger swallowtail
Fish Largemouth bass, fighting tarpon
Flower(s) Camellia, oak-leaf hydrangea
Insect Monarch butterfly
Mammal(s) American black bear
Reptile Alabama red-bellied turtle
Tree Longleaf pine

Inanimate insignia
Beverage Conecuh Ridge Whiskey
Colors Red, white
Dance Square dance
Food Pecan, blackberry, peach
Fossil Basilosaurus
Gemstone Star blue quartz
Mineral Hematite
Shell Johnstone's junonia
Slogan(s) Share The Wonder,
Alabama the beautiful,
Where America finds its voice,
Sweet Home Alabama,
"Heart of Dixie"
Soil Bama
Song(s) "Alabama"
Other Racking horse

Route marker(s)
Alabama Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of Alabama
Released in 2003

Lists of United States state insignia

Alabama (Listeni/ˌæləˈbæmə/) is a state 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 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. At nearly 1,500 miles (2,400 km), Alabama has one of the nation's longest navigable inland waterways.

Alabama is nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, after the state bird. Alabama is also known as the "Heart of Dixie" and the Cotton State. The state tree is the longleaf pine, and the state flower is the camellia. Alabama's capital is Montgomery.

The largest city by population is Birmingham, which has long been the most industrialized city; and the largest city by land area is Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile, founded by French colonists in 1702 as the capital of French Louisiana.

From the American Civil War until World War II, Alabama, like many states in the southern U.S., suffered economic hardship, in part because of its continued dependence on agriculture.

The state economy in the 21st century is based on management, automotive, finance, manufacturing, aerospace, mineral extraction, healthcare, education, retail, and technology.

Etymology

Russell Cave Entrance RUCA9323
One of the entrances to Russell Cave in Jackson County. Charcoal from indigenous camp fires in the cave has been dated as early as 6550 to 6145 BC.

The European-American naming of the Alabama River and state was derived from 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 river. In the Alabama language, the word for a person of Alabama lineage is Albaamo (or variously Albaama or Albàamo in different dialects; the plural form is Albaamaha).

The word Alabama is believed to have come from the Alabama language.

History

Pre-European settlement

Moundville Archaeological Site Alabama
The Moundville Archaeological Site in Hale County. It was occupied by Native Americans of the Mississippian culture from 1000 to 1450 AD.

Indigenous peoples of varying cultures lived in the area for thousands of years before the advent of European colonization. Trade with the northeastern tribes by the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC–AD 700) and continued until European contact. Among the historical tribes of Native American people living in present-day Alabama at the time of European contact were the Cherokee, an Iroquoian language people; and the Muskogean-speaking Alabama (Alibamu), Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Koasati. While part of the same large language family, the Muskogee tribes developed distinct cultures and languages.

European settlement

With exploration in the 16th century, the Spanish were the first Europeans to reach Alabama. The expedition of Hernando de Soto passed through Mabila and other parts of the state in 1540. More than 160 years later, the French founded the region's first European settlement at Old Mobile in 1702. The city was moved to the current site of Mobile in 1711. This area was claimed by the French from 1702 to 1763 as part of La Louisiane.

After the French lost to the British in the Seven Years' War, it became part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1783. After the United States victory in the American Revolutionary War, the territory was divided between the United States and Spain. The latter retained control of this western territory from 1783 until the surrender of the Spanish garrison at Mobile to U.S. forces on April 13, 1813.

Mississippiterritory
Map showing the formation of the Mississippi and Alabama territories

With the exception of the area around Mobile and the Yazoo lands, what is now the lower one-third Alabama was made part of the Mississippi Territory when it was organized in 1798. The Yazoo lands were added to the territory in 1804, following the Yazoo land scandal. Spain kept a claim on its former Spanish West Florida territory in what would become the coastal counties until the Adams–Onís Treaty officially ceded it to the United States in 1819.

19th century

Before the admission of Mississippi as a state on December 10, 1817, the more sparsely settled eastern half of the territory was separated and named the Alabama Territory. The Alabama Territory was created by the United States Congress on March 3, 1817. St. Stephens, now abandoned, served as the territorial capital from 1817 to 1819.

Thornhill 01
The main house, built in 1833, at Thornhill in Greene County. It is a former Black Belt plantation.

Cahaba, now a ghost town, was the first permanent state capital from 1820 to 1825.

Southeastern planters and traders from the Upper South brought slaves with them as the cotton plantations in Alabama expanded.

Oldalabamastatecapruinsintuscaloosa
Ruins of the former capitol building in Tuscaloosa. Designed by William Nichols, it was built from 1827 to 1829 and was destroyed by fire in 1923.

From 1826 to 1846, Tuscaloosa served as Alabama's capital.

On January 11, 1861, Alabama declared its secession from the Union. After remaining an independent republic for a few days, it joined the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy's capital was initially at Montgomery. Alabama was heavily involved in the American Civil War.

Huntsville Courthouse Square 1864
Union Army troops occupying Courthouse Square in Huntsville, following its capture and occupation by federal forces in 1864.

Alabama's slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. Alabama was under military rule from the end of the war in May 1865 until its official restoration to the Union in 1868.

Following the war, the state remained chiefly agricultural, with an economy tied to cotton.

20th century

Birmingham Alabama skyline 1915
The developing skyline of Birmingham in 1915
Mount Sinai School Autauga County July 2011 1
The former Mount Sinai School in rural Autauga County, completed in 1919. It was one of the 387 Rosenwald Schools built in the state.

Beginning in 1913, the first 80 Rosenwald Schools were built in Alabama for African-American children. A total of 387 schools, seven teachers' houses, and several vocational buildings were completed by 1937 in the state. Several of the surviving school buildings in the state are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Continued racial discrimination, agricultural depression, and the failure of the cotton crops due to boll weevil infestation led tens of thousands of African Americans from rural Alabama and other states to seek opportunities in northern and midwestern cities during the early decades of the 20th century as part of the Great Migration out of the South.

At the same time, many rural people, both white and African American, migrated to the city of Birmingham to work in new industrial jobs.

Industrial development related to the demands of World War II brought a level of prosperity to the state not seen since before the civil war.

In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that public schools had to be desegregated, but Alabama was slow to comply.

Legal segregation ended in the states in 1964, but Jim Crow customs often continued until specifically challenged in court.

Geography

Map of Alabama terrain NA
A general map of Alabama

Alabama is the thirtieth-largest state in the United States with 52,419 square miles (135,760 km2) 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 U.S. 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 and creating numerous creeks, streams, rivers, mountains, and lakes.

Alabama is bordered by the states of 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. The state ranges in elevation from sea level at Mobile Bay to over 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast.

The highest point is Mount Cheaha, at a height of 2,413 ft (735 m). Alabama's land consists of 22 million acres (89,000 km2) of forest or 67% of total land area. Suburban Baldwin County, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in the state in both land area and water area.

Alabama has four National Forests: Conecuh, Talladega, Tuskegee, and William B. Bankhead. 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 5-mile (8 km)-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 1,000-foot (300 m)-wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago. 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.

Climate

Autumn tree in Birmingham Nov 2011
Autumn tree in Birmingham

The state is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa) under the Koppen Climate Classification. 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.

Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the U.S., with high temperatures averaging over 90 °F (32 °C) throughout the summer in some parts of the state. Alabama is also prone to tropical storms and even hurricanes.

South Alabama reports many thunderstorms.

Phil Campbell tornado damage
Tornado damage in Phil Campbell following the statewide April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak.

Alabama, along with Oklahoma, 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 June 2013. Several long-tracked F5/EF5 tornadoes have contributed to Alabama reporting more tornado fatalities than any other state. The state was affected by the 1974 Super Outbreak and was devastated tremendously by the 2011 Super Outbreak. The 2011 Super Outbreak produced a record amount of tornadoes in the state. The tally reached 62.

Birmingham city hall alabama 2010
Snowfall outside Birmingham City Hall in February 2010

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.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama.

Alabama's highest temperature of 112 °F (44 °C) was recorded on September 5, 1925 in the unincorporated community of Centerville. The record low of −27 °F (−33 °C) occurred on January 30, 1966 in New Market.

Flora and fauna

CahabaRiverNWR1
A stand of Cahaba lilies (Hymenocallis coronaria) in the Cahaba River, within the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.

Alabama is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, due largely to a variety of habitats that range from the Tennessee Valley, Appalachian Plateau, and Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians of the north to the Piedmont, Canebrake and Black Belt of the central region to the Gulf Coastal Plain and beaches along the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The state is usually ranked among the top in nation for its range of overall biodiversity.

Alabama is in the subtropical coniferous forest biome and once boasted huge expanses of pine forest, which still form the largest proportion of forests in the state. It currently ranks fifth in the nation for the diversity of its flora. It is home to nearly 4,000 pteridophyte and spermatophyte plant species.

Indigenous animal species in the state include 62 mammal species, 93 reptile species, 73 amphibian species, roughly 307 native freshwater fish species, and 420 bird species that spend at least part of their year within the state. Invertebrates include 83 crayfish species and 383 mollusk species. 113 of these mollusk species have never been collected outside the state.

Demographics

Alabama population map
Alabama's population density

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Alabama was 4,858,979 on July 1, 2015, which represents an increase of 79,243, or 1.66%, since the 2010 Census. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 121,054 people and an increase due to net migration of 104,991 people into the state.

Immigration from outside the U.S. resulted in a net increase of 31,180 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 73,811 people. The state had 108,000 foreign-born (2.4% of the state population), of which an estimated 22.2% were undocumented (24,000).

The center of population of Alabama is located in Chilton County, outside the town of Jemison.

Race and ancestry

According to the 2010 Census, Alabama had a population of 4,779,736. The racial composition of the state was 68.5% White (67.0% Non-Hispanic White and 1.5% Hispanic White), 26.2% Black or African American, 3.9% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 1.1% Asian, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 2.0% from Some Other Race, and 1.5% from Two or More Races. In 2011, 46.6% of Alabama's population younger than age 1 were minorities.

The largest reported ancestry groups in Alabama are: African (26.2%), English (23.6%), Irish (7.7%), German (5.7%), and Scots-Irish (2.0%).

The state has officially recognized nine American Indian tribes in the state, descended mostly from the Five Civilized Tribes of the American Southeast. These are:

Population centers

Downtown Huntsville, Alabama cropped
Huntsville, second-largest metropolitan area
Downtown Mobile 2008 01
Mobile, third-largest metropolitan area
Montgomery Alabama panorama
Montgomery, fourth-largest metropolitan area

Language

95.1% of all Alabama residents five years old or older spoke only English at home in 2010, a minor decrease from 96.1% in 2000. Alabama English is predominantly Southern, and is related to South Midland speech which was taken across the border from Tennessee.

In the major Southern speech region, there is the decreasing loss of the final /r/, for example the /boyd/ pronunciation of 'bird.' In the northern third of the state, there is a South Midland 'arm' and 'barb' rhyming with 'form' and 'orb.' Unique words in Alabama English include: redworm (earthworm), peckerwood (woodpecker), snake doctor and snake feeder (dragonfly), tow sack (burlap bag), plum peach (clingstone), French harp (harmonica), and dog irons (andirons).

Religion

Highlands UMC Birmingham Dec 2012 2
Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, part of the Five Points South Historic District
Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa
The Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa, one of the Islamic centers that contain a mosque and facilities for the cultural needs of Muslims in the state.

In the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 86% of Alabama respondents reported their religion as Christian, including 6% Catholic, and 11% as having no religion. The composition of other traditions is 0.5% Mormon, 0.5% Jewish, 0.5% Muslim, 0.5% Buddhist, and 0.5% Hindu.

Economy

Mercedes Benz US International 01
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Tuscaloosa County was the first automotive facility to locate within the state.

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 (went up) 0.7% from the past year. The single largest increase came in the area of information. In 1999, per capita income for the state was $18,189.

Alabama's agricultural outputs are 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", many reports say that Alabama is between eight and ten in national cotton making, with Texas, Georgia and Mississippi making up the top three.

Alabama's company outputs are iron and steel products (like cast-iron and steel pipe); paper, lumber, and wood items; mining (mostly coal); plastic things; cars and trucks; and apparel. Alabama also makes aerospace and electronic things, mostly in the "Huntsville" area, location of NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, headquartered at "Redstone Arsenal."

Tourism

GulfShoresAlBeachJuly08B
Alabama's beaches are one of the state's major tourist destinations.

An estimated 20 million tourists visit the state each year. Over 100,000 of these are from other countries, including from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. In 2006, 22.3 million tourists spent $8.3 billion providing an estimated 162,000 jobs in the state. Some of the most popular areas include the Rocket City of Huntsville, the beaches along the Gulf, and the state's capitol in Montgomery.

Law and government

State government

Alabama Capitol Building
The State Capitol Building in Montgomery, completed in 1851

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 by some accounts the world's longest constitution and is roughly forty times the length of the United States Constitution.

Alabama's government is divided into three coequal 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).

County and local governments

Lauderdale County, AlabamaColbert County, AlabamaFranklin County, AlabamaMarion County, AlabamaLamar County, AlabamaPickens County, AlabamaGreene County, AlabamaSumter County, AlabamaChoctaw County, AlabamaWashington County, AlabamaMobile County, AlabamaBaldwin County, AlabamaEscambia County, AlabamaMonroe County, AlabamaClarke County, AlabamaMarengo County, AlabamaHale County, AlabamaFayette County, AlabamaTuscaloosa County, AlabamaBibb County, AlabamaPerry County, AlabamaDallas County, AlabamaWilcox County, AlabamaConecuh County, AlabamaCovington County, AlabamaCrenshaw County, AlabamaMontgomery County, AlabamaButler County, AlabamaLowndes County, AlabamaAutauga County, AlabamaChilton County, AlabamaShelby County, AlabamaJefferson County, AlabamaWalker County, AlabamaWinston County, AlabamaLawrence County, AlabamaLimestone County, AlabamaMadison County, AlabamaJackson County, AlabamaDeKalb County, AlabamaCherokee County, AlabamaEtowah County, AlabamaMarshall County, AlabamaMorgan County, AlabamaCullman County, AlabamaBlount County, AlabamaSt. Clair County, AlabamaCalhoun County, AlabamaCleburne County, AlabamaTalladega County, AlabamaCoosa County, AlabamaClay County, AlabamaRandolph County, AlabamaTallapoosa County, AlabamaChambers County, AlabamaLee County, AlabamaElmore County, AlabamaMacon County, AlabamaRussell County, AlabamaBarbour County, AlabamaCoffee County, AlabamaPike County, AlabamaBullock County, AlabamaGeneva County, AlabamaDale County, AlabamaHenry County, AlabamaHouston County, AlabamaAlabama counties map
Alabama counties (clickable map)
See also: List of counties in Alabama

Alabama has 67 counties. Each county has its own elected legislative branch, usually called the county commission. It also has limited executive authority in the county. Because of the constraints of the Alabama Constitution, which centralizes power in the state legislature, only seven counties (Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Madison, Montgomery, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa) in the state have limited home rule. Instead, most counties in the state must lobby the Local Legislation Committee of the state legislature to get simple local policies approved, ranging from waste disposal to land use zoning. The cumbersome process results in local jurisdictions being unable to manage their problems, and the state legislators being buried in local county issues.

Education

Primary and secondary education

Vestavia Hills High School
Vestavia Hills High School in the suburbs of Birmingham

Public primary and secondary education in Alabama is under the purview of the Alabama State Board of Education as well as local oversight by 67 county school boards and 60 city boards of education. Together, 1,496 individual schools provide education for 744,637 elementary and secondary students.

Although unusual in the West, school corporal punishment is not uncommon in Alabama, with 27,260 public school students paddled at least one time, according to government data for the 2011–2012 school year. The rate of school corporal punishment in Alabama is surpassed only by Mississippi and Arkansas.

Sports

College

College football is popular in Alabama, particularly the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn University Tigers, rivals in the Southeastern Conference. In the 2013 season, Alabama averaged over 100,000 fans per game and Auburn averaged over 80,000 fans, both numbers among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance. Bryant-Denny Stadium is the home of the Alabama football team, and has a seating capacity of 101,821, and is the fifth largest stadium in America. Jordan-Hare Stadium is the home field of the Auburn football team and seats up to 87,451.

Professional

Regions Field, Birmingham Alabama
Regions Field in Birmingham

Alabama has several professional and semi-professional sports teams, including three minor league baseball teams.

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. Also, the Barber Motorsports Park has hosted IndyCar Series and Rolex Sports Car Series races.

The ATP Birmingham was a World Championship Tennis tournament held from 1973 to 1980.

Alabama has hosted several professional golf tournaments, such as the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek, the Barbasol Championship (PGA Tour), the Mobile LPGA Tournament of Champions, Airbus LPGA Classic and Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic (LPGA Tour), and The Tradition (Champions Tour).


Alabama Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.