«State of Alabama»
Flag of Alabama Seal
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1. Etymology of state name
5. Health, Education, and Policy
Alabama (formally, the State of Alabama) is a state located in the
southern region of the United States of America. 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 ranks 30th in
total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland waterways.
The state ranks 23rd in population with almost 4.6 million residents in
From the American Civil War until World War II, Alabama, like many
Southern States, suffered economic hardship, in part because of
continued dependence on agriculture. White rural interests dominated the
state legislature until the 1960s, while urban interests were
underrepresented. In the years following World War II, Alabama
experienced significant recovery as the economy of the state
transitioned from agriculture to diversified interests in heavy
manufacturing, mineral extraction, education, and high technology, as
well as the establishment or expansion of multiple military
installations, primarily those of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
Today, the state is heavily invested in aerospace, education, health
care, and banking, and various heavy industries including automobile
manufacturing, mineral extraction, steel production and fabrication.
Alabama is unofficially nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, which is also
the name of the state bird. Alabama is also known as the «Heart of
Dixie». The state tree is the Longleaf Pine, the state flower is the
Camellia. The capital of Alabama is Montgomery, and the largest city by
population is Birmingham. The largest city by total land area is
Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile.
Etymology of state name
The Alabama, a Muskogean tribe, which resided just below the confluence
of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers on the upper reaches of the Alabama
River, served as the etymological source of the names of the river and
state. In the Alabama language, the word for an Alabama person is
Albaamo (or variously Albaama or Albaamo in different dialects; the
plural form «Alabama persons» is Albaamaha). The word Alabama is
believed to have originated from the Choctaw language and was later
adopted by the Alabama tribe as their name. The spelling of the word
varies significantly between sources. The first usage appears in three
accounts of the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1540 with Garcilasso de
la Vega using Alibamo while the Knight of Elvas and Rodrigo Ranjel wrote
Alibamu and Limamu, respectively. As early as 1702, the tribe was known
to the French as Alibamon with French maps identifying the river as
Riviere des Alibamons. Other spellings of the appellation have included
Alibamu, Alabamo, Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alabamu, and
Although the origin of Alabama was evident, the meaning of the tribe’s
name was not always clear. An article without a byline appearing in the
Jacksonville Republican on July 27, 1842 originated the idea that the
meaning was «Here We Rest.» This notion was popularized in the 1850s
through the writings of Alexander Beaufort Meek. Experts in the
Muskogean languages have been unable to find any evidence that would
support this translation. It is now generally accepted that the word
comes from the Choctaw words alba (meaning «plants» or «weeds») and amo
(meaning «to cut», «to trim», or «to gather»). This results in
translations such as «clearers of the thicket» or even «herb gatherers»
which may refer to clearing of land for the purpose of planting crops or
to collection of medicinal plants by medicine men.
Among the Native American people once living in the area of present day
Alabama were Alabama (Alibamu), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek,
Koasati, and Mobile. Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began
during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC-700 AD) and continued until
European contact. The agrarian Mississippian culture covered most of the
state from 1000 to 1600 AD, with one of its major centers being at the
Moundville Archaeological Site in Moundville, Alabama. Artifacts
recovered from archaeological excavations at Moundville were a major
component in the formulation of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
Contrary to popular belief, this development appears to have no direct
links to Mesoamerica, but developed independently. This Ceremonial
Complex represents a major component of the religion of the
Mississippian peoples, and is one of the primary means by which their
religion is understood.
The French founded the first European settlement in the state with the
establishment of Mobile in 1702. Southern Alabama was French from 1702
to 1763, part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1780, and part of
Spanish West Florida from 1780 to 1814. Northern and central Alabama was
part of British Georgia from 1763 to 1783 and part of the American
Mississippi territory thereafter. Its statehood was delayed by the lack
of a coastline; rectified when Andrew Jackson captured Spanish Mobile in
1814. Alabama was the twenty-second state admitted to the Union, in
Alabama was the new frontier in the 1820s and 1830s. Settlers rapidly
arrived to take advantage of fertile soils. Planters brought slaves with
them, and traders brought in more from the Upper South as the cotton
plantations expanded. The economy of the central «Black Belt» featured
large cotton plantations whose owners built their wealth on the labor of
enslaved African Americans. It was named for the dark, fertile soil.
Elsewhere poor whites were subsistence farmers. According to the 1860
census, enslaved Africans comprised 45% of the state’s population of
964,201. There were only 2,690 free persons of color.
In 1861 Alabama seceded from the Union to join the Confederate States of
America. While not many battles were fought in the state, Alabama
contributed about 120,000 soldiers to the Civil War. All the slaves were
freed by 1865. Following Reconstruction, Alabama was readmitted to
the Union in 1868.
After the Civil War, the state was still chiefly rural and tied to
cotton. Planters resisted working with free labor and sought to
re-establish controls over African Americans. Whites used paramilitary
groups, Jim Crow laws and segregation to reduce freedoms of African
Americans and restore their own dominance.
In its new constitution of 1901, the legislature effectively
disenfranchised African Americans through voting restrictions. While the
planter class had engaged poor whites in supporting these efforts, the
new restrictions resulted in disenfranchising poor whites as well. By
1941, a total of more whites than blacks had been disenfranchised:
600,000 whites to 520,000 blacks. This was due mostly to effects of the
cumulative poll tax.
The damage to the African-American community was more pervasive, as
nearly all its citizens lost the ability to vote. In 1900, fourteen
Black Belt counties (which were primarily African American) had more
than 79,000 voters on the rolls. By June 1, 1903, the number of
registered voters had dropped to 1,081. In 1900, Alabama had more than
181,000 African Americans eligible to vote. By 1903, only 2,980 had
managed to «qualify» to register, although at least 74,000 black voters
were literate. The shut out was long-lasting. The disenfranchisement
was ended only by African Americans leading the Civil Rights Movement
and gaining Federal legislation in the mid-1960s to protect their voting
and civil rights. Such legislation also protected the rights of poor
The rural-dominated legislature continued to underfund schools and
services for African Americans in the segregated state, but did not
relieve them of paying taxes. Continued racial discrimination,
agricultural depression, and the failure of the cotton crops due to boll
weevil infestation led tens of thousands of African Americans to seek
out opportunities in northern cities. They left Alabama in the early
20th century as part of the Great Migration to industrial jobs and
better futures in northern industrial cities. The rate of population
growth rate in Alabama (see table) dropped by nearly half from
1910–1920, reflecting the outmigration.
At the same time, many rural whites and blacks migrated to the city of
Birmingham for work in new industrial jobs. It experienced such rapid
growth that it was nicknamed «The Magic City.» By the 1920s, Birmingham
was the 19th largest city in the U.S. and held more than 30% of the
population of the state. Heavy industry and mining were the basis of the
Despite massive population changes in the state from 1901 to 1961, the
rural-dominated legislature refused to reapportion House and Senate
seats based on population. They held on to old representation to
maintain political and economic power in agricultural areas. In
addition, the state legislature gerrymandered the few Birmingham
legislative seats to ensure election by persons living outside of
One result was that Jefferson County, home of Birmingham’s industrial
and economic powerhouse, contributed more than one-third of all tax
revenue to the state. It received only 1/67th of the tax money, as the
state legislature ensured that taxes were distributed equally to each
county regardless of population. Urban interests were consistently
underrepresented. A 1960 study noted that because of rural domination,
«A minority of about 25 per cent of the total state population is in
majority control of the Alabama legislature.»
Because of the long disfranchisement of African Americans, the state
continued as one-party Democratic for decades. It produced a number of
national leaders. Industrial development related to the demands of World
War II brought prosperity. Cotton faded in importance as the state
developed a manufacturing and service base. In the 1960s under Governor
George Wallace, many whites in the state opposed integration efforts.
During the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved a
restoration of voting and other civil rights through the passage of the
national Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. De
jure segregation ended in the states as Jim Crow laws were invalidated
Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, cases were filed in Federal courts
to force Alabama to properly redistrict by population both the state
legislature House and Senate. In 1972, for the first time since 1901,
the Alabama constitution’s provision for periodic redistricting based on
population was implemented. This benefited the many urban areas that had
developed, and all in the population who had been underrepresented for
more than 60 years.
After 1972, the state’s white voters shifted much of their support to
Republican candidates in presidential elections (as also occurred in
neighboring southern states). Since 1990 the majority of whites in the
state have also voted increasingly Republican in state elections.
Alabama is the thirtieth largest state in the United States with 52,423
square miles (135,775 km?) of total area: 3.19% of the area is water,
making Alabama twenty-third in the amount of surface water, also giving
it the second largest inland waterway system in the United States.
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 creating numerous creeks, streams, rivers, mountains, and
lakes. A notable natural wonder in Alabama is «Natural Bridge» rock,
the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies, located just south of
Haleyville, in Winston County.
Alabama generally 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 (see map), at a height of 2,407 ft
The states bordering Alabama are 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
Alabama’s land consists of 22 million acres (89,000 km2) of forest or
67% of total land area.
Areas in Alabama administered by the National Park Service include
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park near Alexander City; Little River
Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne; Russell Cave National Monument
in Bridgeport; Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee; and
Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site near Tuskegee. Additionally,
Alabama has four National Forests including 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.
Suburban Baldwin County, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in
the state in both land area and water area.
A 5-mile (8 km)-wide meteorite impact crater is located in Elmore
County, just north of Montgomery. This is the Wetumpka crater, which is
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. In 2002, Christian Koeberl with the Institute
of Geochemistry University of Vienna published evidence and established
the site as an internationally recognized impact crater.
The climate of Alabama is described as temperate with an average annual
temperature of 64 °F (18 °C). Temperatures tend to be warmer in the
southern part of the state with its close proximity to the Gulf of
Mexico, while the northern parts of the state, especially in the
Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be slightly cooler.
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 United States, with high
According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2006
total gross state product was $160 billion, or $29,697 per capita for a
ranking of 44th among states. Alabama’s GDP increased 3.1% from 2005,
placing Alabama number 23 in terms of state level GDP growth. The single
largest increase came in the area of durable goods manufacturing. In
1999, per capita income for the state was $18,189.
Alabama’s agricultural outputs include 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», Alabama ranks between eight and ten in national cotton
production, according to various reports, with Texas, Georgia
and Mississippi comprising the top three.
Alabama’s industrial outputs include iron and steel products (including
cast-iron and steel pipe); paper, lumber, and wood products; mining
(mostly coal); plastic products; cars and trucks; and apparel. Also,
Alabama produces aerospace and electronic products, mostly in the
Huntsville area, which is home of the NASA George C. Marshall Space
Flight Center and the US Army Aviation and Missile Command,
headquartered at Redstone Arsenal.
Alabama is also home to the largest industrial growth corridor in the
nation, including the surrounding states of Tennessee, Mississippi,
Florida, and Georgia. Most of this growth is due to Alabama’s rapidly
expanding automotive manufacturing industry. In Alabama alone since
1993, it has generated more than 67,800 new jobs. Alabama currently
ranks 4th in the nation in automobile output.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham’s economy was transformed by
investments in bio-technology and medical research at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its adjacent hospital. The UAB Hospital
is a Level I trauma center providing health care and breakthrough
medical research. UAB is now the area’s largest employer and the largest
in Alabama with a workforce of about 20,000. Health care services
provider HealthSouth is also headquartered in the city.
Birmingham is also a leading banking center, serving as home to two
major banks: Regions Financial Corporation and Compass Bancshares.
SouthTrust, another large bank headquartered in Birmingham, was acquired
by Wachovia in 2004. The city still has major operations as one of the
regional headquarters of Wachovia. In November 2006, Regions Financial
merged with AmSouth Bancorporation, which was also headquartered in
Birmingham. They formed the 8th Largest U. S. Bank (by total assets).
Nearly a dozen smaller banks are also headquartered in the Magic City,
such as Superior Bank and New South Federal Savings Bank.
Telecommunications provider AT&T, formerly BellSouth, has a major
presence with several large offices in the metropolitan area. Major
insurance providers: Protective Life, Infinity Property & Casualty and
ProAssurance among others, are headquartered in Birmingham and employ a
large number of people in Greater Birmingham. The city is also a
powerhouse of construction and engineering companies, including BE&K and
B. L. Harbert International which routinely are included in the
Engineering News-Record lists of top design and international
Huntsville is regarded for its high-technology driven economy and is
known as the «Rocket City» due to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
and the Redstone Arsenal. Huntsville’s main economic influence is
derived from aerospace and military technology. Redstone Arsenal,
Cummings Research Park (CRP), and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
comprise the main hubs for the area’s technology-driven economy. CRP is
the second largest research park in the United States and the fourth
largest in the world, and is over 38 years old. Huntsville is also home
for commercial technology companies such as the network access company
ADTRAN, computer graphics company Intergraph and design and manufacturer
of IT infrastructure Avocent. Telecommunications provider Deltacom, Inc.
and copper tube manufacturer and distributor Wolverine Tube are also
based in Huntsville. Cinram manufactures and distributes 20th Century
Fox DVDs and Blu-ray Discs out of their Huntsville plant. Sanmina-SCI
also has a large presence in the area. Forty-two Fortune 500 companies
have operations in Huntsville. In 2005, Forbes Magazine named the
Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area as 6th best place in the
nation for doing business, and number one in terms of the number of
engineers per total employment.
The city of Mobile, Alabama’s only saltwater port, is a busy seaport on
the Gulf of Mexico with inland waterway access to the Midwest via the
Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The Port of Mobile is the 10th largest by
tonnage in the United States. In May 2007, a site north of Mobile was
selected by German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp for a $3.7 billion steel
production plant, with the promise of 2,700 permanent jobs.
5. Health, Education, and Policy
Public primary and secondary education in Alabama is under the overview
of the Alabama State Board of Education as well as local oversight by 67
county school boards and 60 city boards of education. Together, 1,541
individual schools provide education for 743,364 elementary and
Public school funding is appropriated through the Alabama Legislature
through the Education Trust Fund. In FY 2006–2007, Alabama appropriated
$3,775,163,578 for primary and secondary education. That represented an
increase of $444,736,387 over the previous fiscal year. In 2007, over 82
percent of schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward student
proficiency under the National No Child Left Behind law, using measures
determined by the state of Alabama (not the Federal Government). In
2004, only 23 percent of schools met AYP.
However, while Alabama’s public education system has improved, it still
lags behind in achievement compared to other states. According to U.S.
Census data, Alabama’s high school graduation rate—75%—is the second
lowest in the United States (after Mississippi). . The largest
educational gains were among people with some college education but
Alabama’s programs of higher education include 14 four-year public
universities, numerous two-year community colleges, and 17 private,
undergraduate and graduate universities. Public, post-secondary
education in Alabama is overseen by the Alabama Commission on Higher
Education. Colleges and universities in Alabama offer degree programs
from 2-year associate degrees to 16 doctoral level programs.
Accreditation of academic programs is through the Southern Association
of Schools and Colleges as well as a variety of subject focused national
and international accreditation agencies.
Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places in Alabama,
Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006 (CSV). 2007
Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division (June 28,
2007). Retrieved on 2007-06-28.
«Elevations and Distances in the United States». U.S Geological Survey
(April 29, 2005). Retrieved on November 3, 2006.
Read, William A. (1984). Indian Place Names in Alabama. University of
«Alabama: The State Name». All About Alabama. Alabama Department of
Archives and History. Retrieved on 2007-08-02.
Griffith, Lucille (1972). Alabama: A Documentary History to 1900.
University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-0371-5. OCLC 17530914.
«Alabama State History». theUS50.com. Retrieved on 2006-09-23.
«AL-Alabama». Landscapes and History by state. StateMaster.com.
Retrieved on 2006-09-23.
«Alabama County (geographies ranked by total population)». Geographic
Comparison Table. U.S. Census Bureau (Census year 2000). Retrieved on
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