Alabama (abbr.: AL or Ala.), state in the southeastern United States of America, on the Gulf of Mexico, 133,667 km2, with about 4.04 million inhabitants; Capital: Montgomery.
Alabama stretches from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the north across the fertile Black Earth regions (the Black Belt) to the swampy Gulf Coast Plain. The largest river is the 500 km long Alabama, which bisects the state from the northeast to the southwest. There is a humid, subtropical climate, with long warm summers and short mild winters.
The average population density is 30 inhabitants. per km2. 60% of the population lives in urban areas. The largest population centers are Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery. See top cities in Alabama.
Until the Second World War, the economy of the state was mainly based on agriculture, since then industry and trade have grown strongly; in particular, the establishment of a rocket research center and an aerospace center, both in Huntsville, has given the industry a strong boost. Nevertheless, agriculture still occupies an important place. The main arable crops are cotton, maize, soybeans and groundnuts. Animal husbandry is now especially important in the Black Belt (previously almost entirely occupied by cotton cultivation) and in the south-west. The industry produces aluminum, transport equipment, textiles, paper, machines, foodstuffs, chemicals, iron, steel and plastics. The main mining products are bauxite, coal and petroleum. The Port of Mobile is one of the most important seaports in the United States. Attractions include Horseshoe Bend National Military Park (where Andrew Jackson defeated the Indians in 1814), Mound State Park in Moundville, and Noccalula Falls near Gadsden.
The main Native American tribes inhabiting this area at the time of European exploration were the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muskogee (“Creek”), Choctaw, and Natchez. In 1540 the Spaniard Hernan(do) de Soto fought the chief Tuscaloosa, killing several thousand Indians. A Spanish fortress was founded in Mobile Bay in 1559, but the first definitive settlement dates from 1701; then the Frenchman D’Iberville founded a fortress near Mobile. From here the French influence extended northwards, where it met the English. In 1763 the French had to give up the area. When England recognized the United States as an independent state in 1783, it simultaneously returned Florida to Spain, leaving the coastal area with Mobile in Spanish hands until 1812. The Mississippi Territory, which the United States had formed in 1798 and which included the states of Mississippi and Alabama, remained largely in the hands of the Native American tribes, the Creek and others, until 1812. They raided a white settlement in 1813 and murdered 517 men, women and children.. But the following year, the Creek was crushed by General Andrew Jackson (Battle of Horseshoe Bend). From then on, the white settlers poured into the area, the Indians moved across the Mississippi, and in 1819 Alabama was incorporated into the Union as the (22nd) state. It became one of the most important southern states because of its cotton cultivation and in 1860 had a population of more than 960,000 souls, of which 55% were slaves.
In 1861, Montgomery, the capital, declared independence from the South. After the American Civil War, the state remained under Northern occupation until 1874, and since then it has been one of the strongest strongholds in the South, democratic in party choice until, in 1964, Goldwater emerged victorious as the new champion of the States’ Rights idea.
Already in the last century, industry started to flourish around Birmingham, and this changed the character of society. Many reforms were made, especially under the governorship of Frank M. Dixon (1939–1943); the Negroes, however, too rarely shared in the improvements. It was precisely in Alabama, therefore, that their strongest protest began, led by the Baptist minister in Montgomery, Martin Luther King. This led to fierce conflicts in the state, including in Birmingham in 1963 and in Selma in 1965. This partly led to the adoption of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which banned racial segregation in the United States.