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Birmingham, Alabama
City
City of Birmingham
From top left: Downtown from Red Mountain; Torii in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Alabama Theatre; Birmingham Museum of Art; City Hall; Downtown Financial Center.
From top left: Downtown from Red Mountain; Torii in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Alabama Theatre; Birmingham Museum of Art; City Hall; Downtown Financial Center.
Flag of Birmingham, Alabama
Flag
Official seal of Birmingham, Alabama
Seal
Nickname(s): "The Magic City", "Pittsburgh of the South"
Location in Jefferson County, Alabama
Location in Jefferson County, Alabama
Country United States
State Alabama
Counties Jefferson, Shelby
Incorporated December 19, 1871
Named for Birmingham, United Kingdom
Area
 • City 148.61 sq mi (384.9 km2)
 • Land 146.07 sq mi (378.3 km2)
 • Water 2.54 sq mi (6.6 km2)
Elevation 644 ft (196 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 212,237
 • Estimate (2015) 212,461
 • Rank US: 102nd
 • Density 1,415.85/sq mi (546.66/km2)
 • Urban 749,495 (US: 55th)
 • Metro 1,145,647 (US: 49th)
Demonym(s) Birminghamian
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 35201 to 35298
Area code(s) 205
Interstates I-20, I-22, I-59 I-65, and I-459
Airports Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport
FIPS code 01-07000
GNIS feature ID 015817
Website Official website

Birmingham (/ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Alabama and the county seat of Jefferson County. The city's population was 212,237 in the 2010 United States Census. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of about 1,128,047 according to the 2010 Census, which is approximately one quarter of Alabama's population.

Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, through the merger of three pre-existing farm towns, notably, former Elyton. It was named for Birmingham, England, one of the UK's major industrial cities. The Alabama city annexed smaller neighbors and developed as an industrial and railroad transportation center, based on mining, the new iron and steel industry, and railroading. Most of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. The city was developed as a place where cheap, non-unionized, and African-American labor from rural Alabama could be employed in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast.

From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its growth from 1881 through 1920 earned its nicknames as The Magic City and The Pittsburgh of the South. Its major industries were iron and steel production, plus a major component of the railroading industry. Rails and railroad cars were both manufactured in Birmingham. The two primary hubs of railroading in the Deep South have been nearby Atlanta and Birmingham, since the 1860s. The economy has diversified since industrial restructuring in the latter half of the 20th century. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have risen in importance. Except for coal mining, the industry has declined in the Birmingham area. Birmingham ranks as one of the most important business centers in the Southeastern United States and as one of the largest banking centers in the nation.

In higher education, Birmingham has been the location of the University of Alabama School of Medicine (formerly the Medical College of Alabama) and the University of Alabama School of Dentistry since 1947. Since that time it has also gained the University of Alabama at Birmingham (founded circa 1969), one of three main campuses of the University of Alabama System. It is also home to three private institutions: Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, and Miles College. In total, the Birmingham area has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, pharmacy, law, engineering, and nursing. The city has three of the state's five law schools: Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, and Miles Law School. Birmingham is also the headquarters of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and Southeastern Conference, one of the major U.S. collegiate athletic conferences.

History

See also: Timeline of Birmingham, Alabama

Founding and early growth

Birmingham AL
L&N rail yard at Birmingham, ca. 1900

Birmingham was founded on June 1, 1871, by the Elyton Land Company, whose investors included cotton planters, bankers and railroad entrepreneurs. It sold lots near the planned crossing of the Alabama & Chattanooga and South & North Alabama railroads, including land formerly a part of the Benjamin P. Worthington plantation. The first business at that crossroads was the trading post and country store operated by Marre and Allen. The site of the railroad crossing was notable for its proximity to nearby deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone – the three main raw materials used in making steel.

OUR BABY DOFFER
Child labor at Avondale Mills in Birmingham in 1910, photo by Lewis Hine

Birmingham is the only place worldwide where significant amounts of all three minerals can be found in close proximity. From the start the new city was planned as a center of industry. The founders, organized as the Elyton Land Company, named it as Birmingham, one of England's main industrial cities, to advertise that point. The growth of the planned city was impeded by an outbreak of cholera and a Wall Street crash in 1873. Soon afterward it began to develop shortly afterward at an explosive rate.

In 1911, the town of Elyton, Alabama, and several other surrounding towns were absorbed into Birmingham. From the early 20th century, the city grew at a rate that earned it the nickname of "The Magic City". The downtown was redeveloped from a low-rise commercial and residential district into a busy grid of neoclassical mid-rise and high-rise buildings and streetcar lines. Between 1902 and 1912, four large office buildings were constructed at the intersection of 20th Street, the central north–south spine of the city, and 1st Avenue North, which connected the warehouses and industrial facilities stretching along the east–west railroad corridor. This group of early skyscrapers was nicknamed the "Heaviest Corner on Earth".

Birmingham was hit by the 1916 Irondale earthquake (magnitude 5.1). A few buildings in the area were slightly damaged. The earthquake was felt as far as Atlanta and neighboring states.

Birmingham, 1916
Birmingham, 1916

While excluded from the best-paying industrial jobs, blacks joined the migration of residents from rural areas to the city for its opportunities. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Birmingham especially hard, as sources of capital that were fueling the city's growth rapidly dried up at the same time that farm laborers, driven off the land, made their way to the city in search of work. New Deal programs put many city residents to work in WPA and CCC programs. They made important contributions to the city's infrastructure and artistic legacy, including such key improvements as Vulcan's tower and Oak Mountain State Park.

The World War II demand for steel and the post-war building boom gave Birmingham a rapid return to prosperity. Manufacturing diversified beyond the production of raw materials. Major civic institutions such as schools, parks and museums, were able to expand their scope.

Despite the growing population and wealth of the city, its residents were markedly underrepresented in the state legislature. Although the state constitution required redistricting in accordance with changes in the decennial census, the state legislature did not undertake this during the 20th century until the early 1970s, when forced by the United States Supreme Court in its landmark decision in Reynolds v. Sims. Birmingham-area voters had sued to force redistricting, and the Court ruled for the principle of "one man, one vote". The Court found that the geographic basis of the state senate, which gave each county one senator, gave undue influence to rural counties. Representatives of rural counties also had disproportionate power in the state House of Representatives. They had failed to provide support for infrastructure and other improvements in urban centers such as Birmingham, and had little sympathy for urban populations. At this time, the General Assembly ran county governments as extensions of the state through their legislative delegations.

Birmingham civil rights movement

In the 1950s and '60s Birmingham gained national and international attention as a center of activity during the Civil Rights Movement. Based on their members working in mining and industry, in the 1950s independent KKK chapters had ready access to dynamite and other bomb materials. Whites unhappy with social changes in the 1950s committed racially motivated bombings of the houses of black families who moved into new neighborhoods or were politically active, earning Birmingham the nickname "Bombingham".

Locally the civil rights movement's activists were led by Fred Shuttlesworth, a fiery preacher who became legendary for his fearlessness in the face of such violence. But he found city officials resistant to making changes for integration or lessening of Jim Crow.

16th Street Baptist Church
16th Street Baptist Church, now a National Historic Landmark

A watershed in the civil rights movement occurred in 1963 when Shuttlesworth requested that Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Shuttlesworth had co-founded, come to Birmingham to help end public segregation. King had served here as a pastor earlier in his career.

Together they launched "Project C" (for "Confrontation"), a massive non-violent demonstration against the Jim Crow system. While imprisoned in April 1963 for having taken part in a nonviolent protest, Dr. King wrote the now famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," a defining treatise in his cause against segregation.

During April and May daily sit-ins and mass marches organized and led by movement leader James Bevel were met with police repression, tear gas, attack dogs, fire hoses, and arrests. More than 3,000 people were arrested during these protests, many of them children. King and Bevel filled the jails with students to keep the demonstrations going.

By September the SCLC and city were negotiating to end an economic boycott and desegregate stores and other facilities. On a Sunday in September 1963, a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four black girls. The activists' protests and national outrage about the police and KKK violence contributed to ultimate desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham and also passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1998, the Birmingham Pledge, written by local attorney James Rotch, was introduced at the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast. As a grassroots community commitment to combating racism and prejudice, it has since been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries.

Recent history

In the 1970s urban-renewal efforts focused around the development of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which has become a major medical and research center. In 1971 Birmingham celebrated its centennial with a round of public-works improvements, including the upgrading of Vulcan Park and the construction of a major downtown convention center containing a 2,500-seat symphony hall, theater, 19,000-seat arena, and exhibition halls. Birmingham's banking institutions enjoyed considerable growth as well, and new skyscrapers were constructed in the city center for the first time since the 1920s. These projects helped the city's economy to diversify, but did not prevent the exodus of many of the city's residents to independent suburbs. Suburbanization was a national trend. In 1979 Birmingham elected Dr. Richard Arrington Jr. as its first African-American mayor.

Birmingham Skyline
Birmingham skyline at night from atop the City Federal Building, July 1, 2015.

The population inside Birmingham's city limits has fallen over the past few decades, due in large part to "white flight" from the city to the surrounding suburbs and loss of jobs following industrial and railroad restructuring. The city's formerly most populous ethnic group, non-Hispanic white, has declined from 57.4 percent in 1970 to 21.1 percent in 2010. From 340,887 in 1960, the population had decreased to 242,820 in 2000, a loss of about 29 percent. By 2010, Birmingham's population had reached 212,237, its lowest since the mid-1920s. That same period saw a corresponding rise in the populations of the suburban communities of Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Alabaster, and Gardendale, none of which was incorporated as a municipality until after 1950.

Today, Birmingham has begun to experience something of a rebirth. New resources have been dedicated in reconstructing the downtown area into a 24-hour mixed-use district. The market for downtown lofts and condominiums has increased while restaurant, retail and cultural options are also beginning to expand. In 2006, the visitors bureau selected "the diverse city" as a new tag line for the city. In 2011, the Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham was named as a 2011 America's Great Place by the American Planning Association. In January 2015, the International World Game Executive Committee selected Birmingham as the host for the 2021 World Games.

Geography

Birmingham occupies Jones Valley, flanked by long parallel mountain ridges (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills – see Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians) running from north-east to south-west. The valley is drained by small creeks (Village Creek, Valley Creek) which flow into the Black Warrior River. The valley was bisected by the principal railroad corridor, along which most of the early manufacturing operations began.

Red Mountain lies immediately south of downtown. Many of Birmingham's television and radio broadcast towers are lined up along this prominent ridge. The "Over the Mountain" area, including Shades Valley, Shades Mountain and beyond, was largely shielded from the industrial smoke and rough streets of the industrial city. This is the setting for Birmingham's more affluent suburbs of Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, and Hoover. South of Shades Valley is the Cahaba River basin, one of the most diverse river ecosystems in the United States.

Sand Mountain, a smaller ridge, flanks the city to the north and divides Jones Valley from much more rugged land to the north. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (now CSX Transportation) enters the valley through Boyles Gap, a prominent gap in the long low ridge.

Ruffner Mountain, located due east of the heart of the city, is home to Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 151.9 square miles (393 km2), of which, 149.9 square miles (388 km2) is land and 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2) (1.34%) is water.

Suburbs

Birmingham has numerous suburbs. As with many major areas, most of the metropolitan population lives outside the city boundaries. In 2007, the metropolitan area was made up of 7 counties, 102 cities, and 21 school districts. Since then Alabaster and Pelham have broken away from the Shelby County School System to form their own school systems. Some analysts argue that the region suffers from having so many suburbs; companies play jurisdictions against each other to gain tax and other financial incentives for relocation. But these result in no net gain in the area's economy.

Suburbs are listed in order of population. (2013)

Cityscape

Tallest buildings
Name Stories Height
Wells Fargo Tower 34 454 feet (138 metres)
Regions-Harbert Plaza 32 437 feet (133 metres)
AT&T City Center 30 390 feet (120 metres)
Regions Center 30 390 feet (120 metres)
City Federal Building 27 325 feet (99 metres)
Alabama Power Headquarters Building 18 322 feet (98 metres)
Thomas Jefferson Tower 20 287 feet (87 metres)
John Hand Building 20 284 feet (87 metres)
Daniel Building 20 283 feet (86 metres)
Birmingham skyline
Birmingham skyline

Climate

Birmingham has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. January has a daily mean temperature of 43.8 °F (6.6 °C), and there is an average of 47 days annually with a low at or below freezing, and 1.4 where the high does not surpass freezing. July has a daily mean temperature of 81.1 °F (27.3 °C); highs reach or exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on 55 days per year and 100 °F (38 °C) on 2 or 3. Precipitation is relatively well-distributed throughout the year, sometimes falling in the form of snow during winter; however, 10.3 inches (26.2 cm) fell on March 13, 1993, during the 1993 Storm of the Century, which established the highest daily snowfall, one-storm, and winter season total on record. Normal snowfall for 1981–2010 is 1.6 in (4.1 cm), but, for the same period, median monthly snowfall for each month was zero.

The spring and fall months are pleasant but variable as cold fronts frequently bring strong to severe thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes to the region. The fall season (primarily October) features less rainfall and fewer storms, as well as lower humidity than the spring, but November and early December represent a secondary severe weather season. Birmingham is located on the heart of a Tornado Alley known as the Dixie Alley due to the high frequency of tornadoes in Central Alabama. The greater Birmingham area has been hit by two F5 tornadoes; one in Birmingham's northern suburbs in 1977, and second in the western suburbs in 1998. The area was hit by an EF4 tornado which was part of the 2011 Super Outbreak. In late summer and fall months, Birmingham experiences occasional tropical storms and hurricanes due to its proximity to the Central Gulf Coast.

The record high temperature is 107 °F (42 °C), set on July 29, 1930, and the record low is −10 °F (−23 °C), set on February 13, 1899.

Earthquakes

The Birmingham area is not prone to frequent earthquakes; its historical activity level is 59% less than the US average. Earthquakes are generally minor and the Birmingham area can feel an earthquake from the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone. The magnitude 5.1 Irondale earthquake in 1916 caused damage in the Birmingham area and was felt in the neighboring states and as far as the Carolinas. The 2003 Alabama earthquake centered in northeastern Alabama (magnitude 4.6–4.9) was also felt in the rest of Alabama, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 3,086
1890 26,178 748.3%
1900 38,415 46.7%
1910 132,685 245.4%
1920 178,806 34.8%
1930 259,678 45.2%
1940 267,583 3.0%
1950 326,037 21.8%
1960 340,887 4.6%
1970 300,910 −11.7%
1980 284,413 −5.5%
1990 265,968 −6.5%
2000 242,840 −8.7%
2010 212,237 −12.6%
Est. 2015 212,461 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate

Census data

2010

According to the 2010 U.S. Census:

  • 73.4% Black/African American
  • 22.3% White
  • 0.2% Native American
  • 1.0% Asian
  • 0.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • 1.0% Two or more races
  • 2.1% Other races
  • 3.6% Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
Race and ethnicity 2010- Birmingham (5559862755)
Map of racial distribution in Birmingham, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)

2000

Based on the 2000 census, there were 242,820 people, 98,782 households, and 59,269 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,619.7 people per square mile (625.4/km2). There were 111,927 housing units at an average density of 746.6 per square mile (288.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 62.46% Black, 35.07% White, 0.17% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.62% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. 1.55% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 98,782 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.1% were married couples living together, 24.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.

In the city, the population is spread out, with 25.0% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 85.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,898, and the median income for a family was $38,776. Males had a median income of $36,031 versus $30,367 for females. The city's per capita income was $19,962. About 22.5% of families and 27.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.9% of those under the age of 18 and 18.3% of those age 65 or over.

Religion

St Paul 05
St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Birmingham

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies published data showing that in 2010, among metro areas with a greater than one million population, Birmingham had the second highest ratio of Christians, and the greatest ratio of Protestant adherents, in the United States.

The Southern Baptist Convention has 673 congregations and 336,000 members in the Birmingham Metro area. The United Methodists have 196 congregations and 66,759 members. The headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in America had been in Birmingham until the early 1980s; the PCA has more than 30 congregations and almost 15,000 members in the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan area with megachurches like Briarwood Presbyterian Church. The National Baptist Convention has 126 congregations and 69,800 members.

The city is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, covering 39 counties and comprising 75 parishes and missions as well as seven Catholic high schools and nineteen elementary schools. There are also two Eastern Catholic parishes in the Birmingham area. Additionally, the Catholic television network EWTN is headquartered in metropolitan Birmingham. There are three Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Metro Area as well, Greek, Russian and American. There is also a Unitarian Universalist church in the Birmingham area.

The main campus of the Church of the Highlands is located in Birmingham. The church operates schools and churches across Alabama.

Arts and culture

Alabama Theatre
Alabama Theatre

Birmingham is the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama with numerous art galleries in the area including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the Southeast. Downtown Birmingham is currently experiencing a cultural and economic rejuvenation, with several new independent shops and restaurants opening in the area. Birmingham is also home to the state's major ballet, opera and symphony orchestra companies such as the Alabama Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Ballet, Birmingham Concert Chorale, and Opera Birmingham.

  • The historic Alabama Theatre hosts film screenings, concerts and performances.

° The historic Lyric Theatre, which was completely renovated and reopened in 2016, hosts performing arts shows and concerts.

  • The Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts is home to Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Opera Birmingham as well as several series of concerts and lectures. It is located on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), houses a theater, concert hall, exhibition halls, and a sports and concert arena. The BJCC is home to the Birmingham Children's Theatre, one of the oldest and largest children's theatres in the country, and hosts major concert tours and sporting events. Adjacent to the BJCC is the Sheraton Birmingham, the largest hotel in the state. A new Westin Hotel anchors the nearby Uptown entertainment district of downtown Birmingham, which opened in 2013.
  • The historic Carver Theatre, home of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, offers concerts, plays, jazz classes (free to any resident of the state of Alabama) and many other events in the Historic 4th Avenue District, near the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
  • Birmingham Public Library, the downtown hub of a 40-branch metro library system, presents programs for children and adults.
  • Boutwell Auditorium (formerly Municipal Auditorium) is located at Linn Park.
  • Oak Mountain Amphitheater is a large outdoor venue with two stages, located in the suburb of Pelham just south of Birmingham.

Other entertainment venues in the area include:

  • Birmingham CrossPlex/Fair Park Arena, on the west side of town, hosts sporting events, local concerts and community programs.
  • Workplay located in the Southside community, is a multi-purpose facility with offices, audio and film production space, a lounge, and a theater and concert stage for visiting artists and film screenings.
  • Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, a celebration of new independent cinema in downtown Birmingham, was named one of TIME magazines "Film Festivals for the Rest of Us" in their June 5, 2006 issue. Starting in 2006, Sidewalk Film Festival also became host to SHOUT Film Festival which is Alabama's first and only LGBTQ film festival.
  • Wright Center Concert Hall, a 2,500-seat facility at Samford University is home to the Birmingham Ballet.

Birmingham's nightlife is primarily clustered around Five Points South and Lakeview. In addition, a $55-million "Uptown" entertainment district has recently opened adjacent to the BJCC featuring a number of restaurants and a Westin hotel.

The Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham maintains Birmingham365.org, "a one-stop source for finding out what's going on where around" Birmingham.

See also: List of songs about Birmingham, Alabama

Museums

Birmingham is home to several museums. The largest is the Birmingham Museum of Art, which is also the largest municipal art museum in the Southeast. The area's history museums include Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which houses a detailed and emotionally charged narrative exhibit putting Birmingham's history into the context of the Civil Rights Movement. It is located on Kelly Ingram Park adjacent to the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Other history museums include the Southern Museum of Flight, Bessemer Hall of History Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Alabama Museum of Health Sciences, and the Arlington Home.

The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is housed in the historic Carver Theatre, and offers exhibits about the numerous notable jazz musicians from the state of Alabama.

The McWane Science Center is a regional science museum with hands-on science exhibits, temporary exhibitions, and an IMAX dome theater. The center also houses a major collection of fossil specimens for use by researchers. Other unique museums include the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame; the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which contains the largest collection of motorcycles in the world; the Iron & Steel Museum of Alabama at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, near McCalla; the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame; and the Talladega Superspeedway International Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.

South of downtown, on Red Mountain, Vulcan Park features the world's largest cast iron statue, depicting Vulcan at his forge. It was cast for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, and erected at Vulcan Park in 1938.

Festivals

Sloss Furnaces Birmingham
Sloss Furnaces

Birmingham is home to numerous cultural festivals showcasing music, films, and regional heritage. Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival brings filmmakers from all over the world to Birmingham to have their films viewed and judged. This festival usually is scheduled in late August at eight venues around downtown. Screenings are concentrated at the Alabama Theatre. The Sloss Furnaces has an annual Halloween haunted attraction called "Sloss Fright Furnace".

Another musical festival is the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival, presented at the end of August each year, concurrent with the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. This all day festival features national and local jazz acts. In 2007, the festival drew an estimated 6,000 people. The Birmingham Folk Festival is an annual event held since 2006. It moved to Avondale Park in 2008. In 2009 the festival featured nine local bands and three touring "headliner bands".

JoeMinter'sAfricanVillageInAmerica1
Joe Minter's African Village in America is a half-acre visionary art environment near downtown Birmingham.

The Southern Heritage Festival began in the 1960s as a music, arts, and entertainment festival for the African-American community to attract mostly younger demographics. Do Dah Day is an annual pet parade held around the end of May. The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil, an annual music festival event held in May to benefit local charities, always includes an all-star cast of talent. It typically draws more than 30,000 spectators for the annual two-day event. The annual Greek Festival, a celebration of Greek heritage, culture, and especially cuisine, is a charity fundraiser hosted by the Greek Orthodox Holy Trinity - Holy Cross Cathedral. The Greek Festival draws 20,000 patrons annually. The Lebanese Food Festival is held at St. Elias Maronite Church. Magic City Brewfest is an annual festival benefiting local grassroots organization, Free the Hops, and focusing on craft beer. Alabama Bound is an annual book and author fair that celebrates Alabama authors and publishers. Hosted by the Birmingham Public Library, it is an occasion where fans may meet their favorite authors, buy their books, and hear them read from and talk about their work. Book signings follow each presentation.

Other attractions

Vulcan statue
The Vulcan statue on top of Red Mountain in Vulcan Park

The Vulcan statue is a cast iron representation of the Roman god of fire, iron and blacksmiths that is the symbol of Birmingham. The statue stands high above the city looking down from a tower at the top of Red Mountain. Open to visitors, the tower offers views of the city below.

Birmingham Zoo is a large regional zoo with more than 700 animals and a recently opened interactive children's zoo.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a 67-acre (270,000-square-metre) park displaying a wide variety of plants in interpretive gardens, including formal rose gardens, tropical greenhouses, and a large Japanese Garden. The facility also includes a white-tablecloth restaurant, meeting rooms, and an extensive reference library. It is complemented by Hoover's 30-acre (120,000 m2) Aldridge Botanical Gardens, an ambitious project open since 2002. Aldridge offers a place to stroll, but is to add unique displays in coming years.

Splash Adventure (formerly VisionLand and Alabama Adventure) in Bessemer serves as the Birmingham area's water and theme park, featuring numerous slides, and water-themed attractions.

Kelly Ingram Park is the site of notable civil rights protests and adjacent to historic 16th Street Baptist Church. Railroad Park opened in 2010 in downtown Birmingham's Railroad Reservation District. Oak Mountain State Park is about 10 miles (16 km) south of Birmingham. Red Mountain is one of the southernmost wrinkles in the Appalachian chain, and a scenic drive to the top provides views reminiscent of the Great Smoky Mountains further north. To the west of the city is located Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, a 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) Civil War site which includes the well-preserved ruins of the Tannehill Iron Furnaces and the John Wesley Hall Grist Mill.

The Summit is an upscale lifestyle center with many stores and restaurants. It is located in Southeast Birmingham off of U.S. Highway 280, parallel to Interstate 459.

Cultural references

The folk song "Down in the Valley", also known as "Birmingham Jail", contains the lines, "Write me a letter, send it by mail; Send it in care of the Birmingham jail."

The song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd contains the line "in Birmingham they love the governor".

The song "Black Betty" by Ram Jam contains the line "She's from Birmingham (bam-ba-lam) Way down in Alabam' (bam-ba-lam)".

Randy Newman wrote a song, titled "Birmingham", about a man living in this city. It was released as a track on his 1974 album Good Old Boys.

Birmingham is mentioned in "Playboy Mommy" by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos and in "Run, Baby, Run" by American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.

The Country band Blackhawk recorded the song "Postmarked Birmingham".

Tracy Lawrence and Ken Mellons each recorded the country song "Paint Me a Birmingham".

The best known song of the husband and wife band Shovels & Rope is their original tune, "Birmingham".

Urban planning

Railroad park, Birmingham, Alabama
Railroad Park near downtown

Before the first structure was built in Birmingham, the plan of the city was laid out over a total of 1,160 acres (4.7 km2) by the directors of the Elyton Land Co. The streets were numbered from west to east, leaving 20th Street to form the central spine of downtown, anchored on the north by Capital Park and stretching into the slopes of Red Mountain to the south. A "railroad reservation" was granted through the center of the city, running east to west and zoned solely for industrial uses. As the city grew, bridges and underpasses separated the streets from the railroad bed, lending this central reservation some of the impact of a river (without the pleasant associations of a waterfront). From the start, Birmingham's streets and avenues were unusually wide at 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 m), purportedly to help evacuate unhealthy smoke.

In the early 20th century professional planners helped lay out many of the new industrial settlements and company towns in the Birmingham District, including Corey (now Fairfield) which was developed for the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (subsequently purchased by U.S. Steel). At the same time, a movement to consolidate several neighboring cities gained momentum. Although local referendums indicated mixed feelings about annexation, the Alabama legislature enacted an expansion of Birmingham's corporate limits that became effective on January 1, 1910.

The Robert Jemison Company developed many residential neighborhoods to the south and west of Birmingham which are still renowned for their aesthetic quality.

A 1924 plan for a system of parks, commissioned from the Olmsted Brothers is seeing renewed interest with several significant new parks and greenways under development. Birmingham officials have approved a City Center Master Plan developed by Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh, which advocates strongly for more residential development in the downtown area. The plan also called for a major park over several blocks of the central railroad reservation: Railroad Park, which opened in 2010. Along with Ruffner Mountain Park and Red Mountain Park, Birmingham ranks first in the United States for public green space per resident.

Sister cities

Birmingham's Sister Cities program is overseen by the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission.

  • Jordan Al-Karak, Jordan
  • Ghana Winneba, Ghana since November 15, 2009
  • Senegal Guédiawaye, Senegal since 2005
  • Israel Rosh HaAyin, Israel (Friendship City) since 2005
  • Japan Maebashi, Japan (Friendship City)
  • People's Republic of China Chaoyang District, Beijing, China (Friendship City)
  • Guatemala Cobán, Guatemala (Partners for the Americas)

Images for kids


Birmingham, Alabama Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.