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History of Alabama facts for kids

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History of Alabama
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The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American culture that flourished in the United States before the arrival of Europeans.

Alabama became a state of the United States of America on December 14, 1819. After, the Indian wars and removals of the early 19th century forced most Native Americans out of the state, white settlers arrived in large numbers, bringing or importing African-American slaves in the domestic trade.

At least 12,000 years ago, Native Americans or Paleo-Indians appeared in what is today referred to as "The South". Paleo-Indians in the Southeast were hunter-gatherers who pursued a wide range of animals, including the megafauna, which became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. The Woodland period from 1000 BCE to 1000 CE was marked by the development of pottery and the small-scale horticulture of the Eastern Agricultural Complex.

1725 map of Mobile, Alabama's first permanent European settlement.

In antebellum Alabama, wealthy planters created large cotton plantations based in the fertile central Black Belt of the upland region, which depended on the labor of enslaved African Americans. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported to and sold in the state by slave traders who purchased them in the Upper South. Elsewhere in Alabama, poorer whites practiced subsistence farming. By 1860 blacks (nearly all slaves) comprised 45 percent of the state's 964,201 people.

The state's wealthy planters considered slavery essential to their economy. As one of the largest slaveholding states, Alabama was among the first six states to secede. It declared its secession in January 1861 and joined the Confederate States of America in February. During the ensuing American Civil War Alabama had moderate levels of warfare. The population suffered economic losses and hardships as a result of the war. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in Confederate states. The Southern capitulation in 1865 ended the Confederate state government. A decade of Reconstruction began, a controversial time that has a range of interpretation. Its biracial government established the first public schools and welfare institutions in the state.

After the war, planters worked to get their vast cotton plantations back into production. African Americans chose to exert some independence as free tenant farmers and sharecroppers, rather than working in labor gangs. Wherever possible, African-American women left the fields. Small farms, which produced general crops before the war, turned to cotton as a cash crop. The market for cotton was overloaded, and prices dropped 50%.

1861 Davis Inaugural
The inauguration of Jefferson Davis in Montgomery on February 18, 1861.

For 35 years after the Civil War, Alabama was a rich, heavily rural state, with an economy based on cotton and sharecropping. Its legislature failed to invest in infrastructure, so many of its farmers were isolated from more lucrative markets. At Reconstruction's end, whites known as "Redeemer" Democrats regained control of the state legislature by both legal and extralegal means (including violence and harassment) to re-establish political and social dominance over African Americans. In 1901, Democrats passed a state Constitution that effectively disfranchised most African Americans (who in 1900 comprised more than 45 percent of the state's population), as well as tens of thousands of poor whites. By 1941, a total 600,000 poor whites and 520,000 African Americans had been disfranchised. In addition, despite massive population changes in the state that accompanied urbanization and industrialization, the rural-dominated legislature refused to redistrict from 1901 to the 1960s, leading to massive malapportionment in Congressional and state representation. For decades, a rural minority dominated the state, and the needs of urban, middle class and industrial interests were not addressed.

African Americans living in Alabama experienced the inequities of disfranchisement, segregation, violence, and underfunded schools. Tens of thousands of African Americans from Alabama joined the Great Migration out of the South from 1915 to 1930 and moved to better opportunities in industrial cities, mostly in the North, especially the Midwest. The black exodus escalated steadily in the first three decades of the 20th century; 22,100 emigrated from 1900 to 1910; 70,800 between 1910 and 1920; and 80,700 between 1920 and 1930.

As a result of African-American disenfranchisement and rural control, state politics were dominated by Democrats into the 1980s as part of the "Solid South." Alabama produced a number of national leaders.

The New Deal farm programs increased the price of cotton, and World War II finally brought prosperity, as the state developed a manufacturing and service base. Cotton faded in importance and mechanization beginning in the 1930s reduced the need for farm labor. Following years of struggles after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, segregation was abolished and African Americans could again exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Beginning in the late 1990s, conservative whites began to shift to the Republican Party. The election of Guy Hunt as Governor in 1986 marked the shift of the white majority to becoming a Republican stronghold in Presidential elections; its voters also leaned Republican in statewide elections. The Democratic Party still dominated local and legislative offices, but total Democratic dominance had ended. In terms of organization, the parties are about evenly matched.

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