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Jefferson County, Alabama facts for kids

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Jefferson County
Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham
Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham
Map of Alabama highlighting Jefferson County
Location within the U.S. state of Alabama
Map of the United States highlighting Alabama
Alabama's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Alabama
Founded December 13, 1819
Named for Thomas Jefferson
Seat Birmingham
Largest city Birmingham
 • Total 1,124 sq mi (2,910 km2)
 • Land 1,111 sq mi (2,880 km2)
 • Water 13 sq mi (30 km2)  1.1%
 • Total 674,721
 • Estimate 
667,820 Decrease
 • Density 600.29/sq mi (231.77/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts 6th, 7th
  • County Number 01 on Alabama Licence Plates
  • One of three counties shuffled to the top 3 numbers because of population size.

Jefferson County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of Alabama, located in the central portion of the state. As of the 2020 census, its population was 674,721. Its county seat is Birmingham. Its rapid growth as an industrial city in the 20th century, based on heavy manufacturing in steel and iron, established its dominance. Jefferson County is the central county of the Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Tannehill Valley Covered Bridge near McCalla.

Jefferson County was established on December 13, 1819, by the Alabama Legislature. It was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson. The county is located in the north-central portion of the state, on the southernmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains, in the center of the (former) iron, coal, and limestone mining belt of the Southern United States.

Jefferson County has a land area of about 1,119 square miles (2,900 km2). Because of shifts in population, early county seats were established first at Carrollsville (1819 – 21), then Elyton (1821 – 73).

Birmingham was founded about 1871 and in 1873 gained designation as the county seat. It was named for the English city of the same name in Warwickshire. That city had long been a center of iron and steel production in Great Britain. Birmingham was established by the merger of three towns, including Elyton. It has continued to grow by annexing neighboring towns and villages, including North Birmingham.

As Birmingham industrialized, its growth accelerated, particularly after 1890. It attracted numerous migrants, both black and white, from rural areas for its new jobs. It also attracted European immigrants. Despite the city's rapid growth, for decades it was underrepresented in the legislature and could not get its urban needs addressed, as rural counties hung on to their power in the legislature.

Racial tensions increased in the late 19th century as whites worked to maintain white supremacy. The white, conservative Democrat-dominated legislature passed a new constitution in 1901 that disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites, excluding them totally from the political system. Economic competition also raised tensions.

Even after 1950, racial violence of whites against blacks continued, especially as civil rights activities increased in Birmingham. In the 1950s KKK chapters bombed black houses to discourage residents moving into new areas. In that period, the city was referred to as "Bombingham." The city finally agreed in 1963 to integrate public facilities and hire more African Americans, following a non-violent campaign based at the 16th Street Baptist Church and an economic boycott of white stores that refused to hire blacks. Whites struck again: on a Sunday in September 1963, KKK members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young black girls and injuring many individuals. The African-American community quickly rebuilt the damaged church.

2011 Bankruptcy filing

Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy on November 9, 2011. This action was valued at $4.2 billion, with debts of $3.14 billion relating to sewer work; it was then the most expensive municipal bankruptcy ever in the U.S. In 2013 it was surpassed by the Detroit bankruptcy in Michigan. The County requested Chapter 9 relief under federal statute 11 U.S.C. §921. The case was filed in the Northern District of Alabama Bankruptcy Court as case number 11-05736.

As of May 2012, Jefferson County had slashed expenses and reduced employment of county government workers by more than 700.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,124 square miles (2,910 km2), of which 1,111 square miles (2,880 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (1.1%) is water. It is the fifth-largest county in Alabama by land area. The county is home to the Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 6,855
1840 7,131 4.0%
1850 8,989 26.1%
1860 11,746 30.7%
1870 12,345 5.1%
1880 23,272 88.5%
1890 88,501 280.3%
1900 140,420 58.7%
1910 226,476 61.3%
1920 310,054 36.9%
1930 431,493 39.2%
1940 459,930 6.6%
1950 558,928 21.5%
1960 634,864 13.6%
1970 644,991 1.6%
1980 671,371 4.1%
1990 651,525 −3.0%
2000 662,047 1.6%
2010 658,466 −0.5%
2020 674,721 2.5%
2021 (est.) 667,820 1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020


Jefferson County racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 324,252 48.06%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 280,112 41.52%
Native American 1,207 0.18%
Asian 13,043 1.95%
Pacific Islander 311 0.05%
Other/Mixed 20,940 3.1%
Hispanic or Latino 34,856 5.17%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 674,721 people, 264,753 households, and 164,678 families residing in the county.


Jefferson County population had decreased slightly by 2010.

According to the 2010 United States census, residents of metropolitan Jefferson County identified as the following:


As of the census of 2000, there were 662,047 people, 263,265 households, and 175,861 families residing in the county. The population density was 595 people per square mile (230/km2). There were 288,162 housing units at an average density of 259 per square mile (100/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 58.10% White, 39.36% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.90% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 0.80% from two or more races. About 1.55% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The largest self-reported European ancestries in Jefferson County, Alabama are English 9.7%(64,016), "American" 9.6%(63,015), Irish 8.6%(56,695), German 7.2%(47,690). Many Americans whose ancestors came from Britain or Ireland identify simply as American, because their immigrant ancestors arrived so long ago, in some cases in the 17th and 18th centuries. Demographers estimate that roughly 20–23% of people in Alabama are of predominantly English and related British Isles ancestry. Researchers believe that more of the European-American population has Scots-Irish ancestry than residents identify with today. In addition, many African Americans have mixed-race ancestry, with some ancestors from the British Isles. Having been classified in the South as black under racial segregation, some of these families are beginning to use DNA tests to learn about and acknowledge European ancestors. Some identify as Multiracial as a result.

There were 263,265 households, out of which 30.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.10% were married couples living together, 17.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.20% were non-families. Nearly 28.70% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45, and the average family size was 3.04.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 24.80% under the age of 18, 9.60% from 18 to 24, 29.70% from 25 to 44, 22.30% from 45 to 64, and 13.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,868, and the median income for a family was $45,951. Males had a median income of $35,954 versus $26,631 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,892. About 11.60% of families and 14.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.20% of those under age 18 and 12.70% of those age 65 or over.


Major highways


Amtrak passenger service is provided by the Crescent, which stops in Birmingham. Freight service is provided by BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Alabama & Tennessee River Railway and Birmingham Terminal Railway (formerly Birmingham Southern Railroad). There is also one switching and terminal railroad, Alabama Warrior Railway.

Air travel

Birmingham is the location of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, which provides service, either direct or connecting, to most of the rest of the United States.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Former Towns

  • Elyton (former Jefferson County Seat, now a neighborhood in Birmingham)
  • Ensley (former town, now a neighborhood in Birmingham)


As a reaction to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v Board of Education in 1954, that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, both state and local officials took steps to preserve de facto educational segregation. As late as 1965, schools in the county were still totally segregated. In 1969, public schools in the county became fully integrated.

Except for cities such as Birmingham, that have established their own local school districts, all parts of Jefferson County are served by the Jefferson County Board of Education. Parts within Birmingham are served by Birmingham City Schools.

Beginning in 1959, more wealthy towns, with predominately white populations, began to form their own school systems. Critics allege this served to stymie integration and financially starve schools that served mostly black populations. Cities in the county that have established their own school systems are Gardendale, Bessemer, Fairfield, Midfield, Trussville, Homewood, Leeds, Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Tarrant, and Mountain Brook. The pattern of residential and economic segregation has occurred in many parts of the country, including economic segregation of poorer whites.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Jefferson (Alabama) para niños

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