History of Alabama
Different cultures inhabited this region before the Europeans settled it. During the period spanning from 1000 BC to 700 AD, which is also known as the Burial mound period, they had a rather developed trading system with the northeastern regions, which relied heavily on the Ohio River for the transport of goods. It is believed that the area of today’s Moundville was the center of the Mississippian culture that mainly dealt with agriculture and inhabited this region from the year 1000 to 1600 AD. The artifacts recovered there were of the utmost importance in formulating the view that is presently held on the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. It was believed to have strong ties to Mesoamericans and their culture, but such speculations have been abandoned, and it is now believed that Southeastern Ceremonial Complex was developed without their influence. Native American tribes that inhabited these regions were identified as Alabama, Mobile, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Koasati, Creek and Choctaw.
The first European settlement in this region was established by the French in 1702 in the region of Old Mobile. They have held it since 1702 to 1763, when the region became a part of British controlled West Florida. They have held it till 1780, when it came under the control of the Spanish, which governed it until 1810. Since 1810 to 1812 its status has changed several times. First it was considered a part of independent West Florida, only to be annexed by the US in the 1810 and become a part of the Territory of Orleans at first, and then finally in 1812, a part of the Mississippi Territory. The Spaniards managed to keep their government present until 1814, but even while it was still technically there it didn’t have any real influence and was mainly for show. The Province of Georgia held claim over what is today northern and central Alabama since 1767. Different factions tried to claim these areas including the British, the Spaniards, several Native American tribes, the state of South Carolina as well as the US federal government until it was added to the Mississippi territory in 1802.
In 1819 Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union. Its stretches of dark, fertile soil that earned this area the nickname Black Belt attracted settlers who brought slaves for the work on cotton plantations. A lot of poor white people also came, and tried to make a living by just farming enough to feed themselves. In 1860 African slaves made up somewhere around 45% of the current state population.
The city of Tuscaloosa was the state’s capital from 1826 to 1846, when Montgomery became the new capital city of Alabama. The state seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederation. Not many battles of the Civil War were fought in the state, but somewhere around 120,000 soldiers of the Confederate army were from Alabama. It wasn’t until 1865 and the 13th Amendment that the slaves in Alabama were freed. In the 1868, Alabama was once again a part of the Union.
Even after the Civil War was over, the economy of the state relied primarily on the cotton plantations that were no longer able to use slave manpower. Independent fractions within the country kept harassing the freedmen. The most prominent organizations of this type were the infamous Ku Klux Klan, and the other, paramilitary groups that followed, such as White League or the Red Shirts. This was sadly mirrored by the Democratic Party that decided to pass Jim Crow laws that encouraged racial segregation.
The Alabama constitution that was ratified in 1901 is currently the largest constitution in the world. It is somewhere around 40 times as long as the constitution of the United States. There is some speculation that is length was supposed to enable it to hold a lot of codified regulations that were intended to deprive African American citizens of their rights. It included literacy as one of the requirements for people who wanted to vote. Poorer white people were encouraged to support the constitution, but they ended up being disenfranchised by it, just like African Americans. The number of voters in the region has dropped from around 80,000 in 1900 to 1.081 in 1903. The number of African American voters in this period dropped from 181,000 to 3000, even though at least 74,000 African American voters met the literacy requirement. By the year 1941, almost all of the African Americans weren’t allowed to vote, but the number of Caucasian people that that were disenfranchised was even larger, 600,000 white people were left unable to vote, compared to 520,000 African Americans. This lasted until the mid 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 managed to return voting rights to African Americans and poor white people.
African Americans were constantly enduring one injustice after another. Even though they were paying regular taxes, institutions that catered to them were underfunded and ineffective. Combined with the fact that cotton didn’t present a reliable source of income, this has caused a great number of African Americans to leave Alabama and migrate to more tolerant northern cities that offered new opportunities. This phenomenon that happened during the early 20th century is called the great migration and it caused the population growth of the state to drop by almost one half in ten years. People who didn’t leave for northern cities relocated to Birmingham in search of industrial jobs. By the year 1920 Birmingham contained 30% of the state’s population and it became the 19th largest city in the United States of America. Most of the jobs that needed filling there were related to mining and heavy manufacturing.
Despite the heavy shift in the population density, with much more people now living in the urban centers instead of rural areas as was the case before, legislature wasn’t redistributed to accommodate this new situation. Rural areas still had as many representatives as before, despite the fact that they didn’t have nearly as many people that needed representation. This has led to a situation in which urban centers contributed the vast majority of taxes, without getting the representation that that has earned them. In the end it was calculated that 25% of the population had the majority of the control of legislature. The Voting Rights Act finally corrected this state of affairs, by giving more control to the areas with larger populations.
Agriculture is still an important part of the Alabama’s economy, but it is now overshadowed by other industries, such as automobile manufacturing, mining, heavy industry and banking. In 2008 Alabama’s GPS (gross state product) increased by 0.7% when compared to the previous year, and it amounted to $170 billion, which translates into almost $30,000 income per capita. By 2010 it had declined to $23,000 per capita. The unemployment rate in the same year was determined to be 8.9%. The three largest employers in 2011 were Redstone Arsenal, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Maxwell Air Force Base. Together, they provide employment for more than 65,000 people.
The Alabama is still known as the Cotton State, but this a title that it has earned in the past and doesn’t really reflect the current state of affairs as Alabama is no longer a leader in that field. Its cotton output puts at in the ninth place regarding cotton production in the US. Its other major agricultural products include cattle, peanuts, eggs and poultry, sorghum, milk, corn, peaches and various vegetables.
Some of the Alabama’s most significant industrial products are paper, mining products, primarily coal, steel and iron products, lumber, clothing and trucks and cars. Huntsville area is also a well known centre of electronic and aerospace production. Automotive industry is especially vital in this state, a number of well known manufacturers have their factories in Alabama. Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Hyundai are just some of them. This industry alone has been able to generate more than 67,800 new open working positions. This kind of activity has placed Alabama in the 4th place as far as the national automobile output is concerned.
Tourism alone has generated $8.3 billion in 2006. It is estimated that each year Alabama is visited by 100,000 tourists from England, Germany, Japan, Canada and other countries. The main tourist appeal is Alabama’s coastal region in the Gulf of Mexico. Tourism creates around 162,000 jobs. Other important sources of income in the state are banking, mostly based in Birmingham, electronics manufacture, construction work and the water transportation with large inland waterways system and the Port of Mobile, the 9th largest seaport in the US regarding tonnage that goes through it.
Geography and Climate in Alabama
With its 52,419 square miles Alabama is the 12th largest state in the US. Some 3.2% of its total area is composed of water surfaces, which means that the Alabama’s waterway system is the second largest in the United States, and that Alabama is 23rd as far as the amount of surface water is concerned. Most of the Alabama is covered in plains, only the northern part of the state is mountainous.
Alabama’s neighbors are Florida on the south, Mississippi on the west, Tennessee on the north and Georgia on the east. Southernmost part of the state is the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Somewhere around 67% of the total surface of the state is covered in forests. Alabama has a great number of national parks, and a beautiful natural wonder called Natural Bridge, a giant rock that spans a river. One of the other noteworthy landmarks is Wetumpka crater which is a meteorite impact crater that is 5 miles in diameter.
The climate in the state is humid subtropical with the average annual temperature of 64 F. naturally, the northern mountainous region has somewhat lower temperatures, while the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico is generally warmer. Summers are quite hot with mild winters and an average rainfall of 56 inches per year. Summer temperatures are averaging at about 90 F, while the highest temperature ever recorded in Alabama was 114 F. Hurricanes and thunderstorms are quite an often occurrence during the warmer months. The coastal area usually has somewhere between 70 and 80 days with thunder every year. This number declines further up north but not significantly. Alabama is the first in the number of deaths caused by tornadoes and seventh in the number of deaths caused by lightning. It is the state with the largest number of EF5 tornadoes. Average winter temperatures are from 40 F in the southern parts and 32 F in the northern parts of the state. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -27 F. Snow is rather rare, but it usually falls several times every winter in the northern parts of the state.
In a period from 2000 to 2008 Alabama’s population grew by 214,545 people, which was a 4.8% increase. This was the sum of the state’s natural population increase of 121,054 people and migrations that account for 104,991 people. The population in 2011 was 4,802,740 people, which amounts to an increase of 0.48% compared to the previous year.
In 2010 the population was 4,779,736 people. Out of those 68.5% where white, 26.2% African American, 1.1% were Asian, 0.6% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, 0.1% native Hawaiian and 3.5% belonged to other races or combinations of different races. These people are mostly descendants of 26.2% African Americans, 23.6% English, 7.7% Irish, 5.7% Germans and 2% Scots-Irish. A lot of people said they were of American descent. They ancestors were usually English who have been in America since 1600s. As of 1984 there are seven recognized Native American tribes in the Alabama, one of which is the tribe that the state owes its name to.
Alabama is a part of the Bible Belt, a region that has a very high percentage of Christians. Somewhere around 58% of the state attends church on regular bases. Most of the people in the state have declared themselves as Protestants. The three most prominent denominations are Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant and Catholic. Around 86% of the state’s inhabitants are declared Christians, out of them 6% are Catholic, and only 11% of the inhabitants claim that they don’t belong to any particular religion.
Alabama Government and Legislation
As was already mentioned, the current Alabama constitution that was ratified in 1901 is the longest constitution currently in existence. There are many of those who would like to see it rewritten as it severely limits the powers of local governments and tries to localize all that power in Montgomery.
Alabama’s government has three branches. The first one is Alabama Legislature, it is comprised of the Alabama house of Representatives and Alabama Senate, numbering 105 and 35 members respectively. This branch is responsible for formulating, discussing and approving or dismissing state legislation. The second branch is the executive branch, and it is meant to monitor the execution of various laws. The Governor of Alabama is at its helm. And finally, the judicial branch is supposed to interpret the constitution and deal with civil or criminal cases. Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest court.
Alabama is divided into 67 counties, and each of them has their own legislative branch that is not appointed but elected. The constitution has placed serious limitations on their power, so they must turn to local Legislation Committee even for the most trivial of matters.
Alabama Education System
Alabama is estimated to have 1,541 primary and secondary education schools which are responsible for the education of 743,364 students. The schools are under the jurisdiction of the Alabama State Board of Education as well as under some amount of control of different school boards and city boards of education. The funding for public schools is gained with the help of the Education Trust Fund. Funding for schools is getting more substantial each year, just in 2007, that funding amounted to $3,775,163,578. The same year has seen 82% of schools satisfy the requirements set by the No Child Left Behind law. Just three years before, in 2004, only 23% of schools managed to do that. Despite the obvious and quite astounding improvements, the education system in Alabama still cannot match those of other states when achievement is concerned. It is estimated that the graduation rate in Alabama’s high schools is 75%, which is just higher than those of Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky.
Alabama can boast 14 colleges with four year curriculums and 17 graduate, undergraduate and private universities. This includes two medical schools, one dental and one optometry school and two veterinary schools. Higher education in Alabama is under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. The largest higher education institution in Alabama is Troy University that has enrolled 29,689 students in 2010 and that has four campuses in Alabama – Dothan, Troy, Phenix City and Montgomery.
Transportation in Alabama
Alabama has an airport in most of the major cities including but not limited to Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and, of course, Montgomery. The state has five important interstate roads. The roads themselves are in good condition, but the lack of maintenance has earned the Alabama a position among the top five states with the worst roadside cleanliness. Alabama has only one seaport located in Mobile, but its system of fresh water ports is well developed and rather efficient.
Sports in Alabama
Alabama’s sports teams mostly belong to minor leagues, but the sports venues in this state are rather impressive. The state has no less than four stadiums that are among the world largest when it comes to seating capacity. Talladega Superspeedway is motorsports complex that is often host to NASCAR races. It can admit 143,000 audience members. This makes it the 6th largest stadium in the USA and 13th largest in the world. Bryant-Denny Stadium, located in Tuscaloosa can admit 101,821 people and is the home of the University of Alabama’s football team. It is the 8th largest non-racing stadium worldwide and the 5th largest in the USA. Jordan-Hare Stadium, located in Auburn can accommodate 87,451 people. As the home of Auburn University football team it is the 12th largest college football stadium in the USA. And finally, there is the Legion Field, located in Birmingham that can admit 71,594 people.