If you like anything and everything that’s outer space, you may want to learn more about Alabama. The first rocket to put humans on the moon in 1969 (Apollo 11) was built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Ever hear of space camp where kids train like astronauts for six days? That’s also in Huntsville; so is the largest space museum in the world: the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Still, Alabama has plenty of other things that make the state and its people special. It was the first state in this country to call Christmas an official holiday in 1836; and in 1947, it was also the first state to celebrate Veterans Day, which honors military veterans.
Alabama is located in the southeastern region of the United States and is bordered by four states: Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Mississippi to the west, and Florida and Mobile Bay to the south, which blocks Alabama’s access to the Gulf of Mexico. The state’s name comes from a Native American tribe that lived in the middle of the state. It named the local river the Alabama River and the state took its name from the river.
The state is divided into five different regions:
- Northwest: This region, called the Highland Rim, includes the Tennessee River Valley.
- Northeast: Named the Cumberland Plateau, this region features flat-topped plateaus.
- Southeast: This area is called the Appalachian Ridge and Valley, which includes the Coosa River and iron-rich Red Mountain.
- Central East: This part of the state is called Piedmont Upland, which is a hilly area with Alabama’s highest peak, Cheaha Mountain, which is 2407-feet high.
- East Gulf Coastal Plain: This region includes both flatlands and hills along with the Alabama River, the state’s largest river. It’s 314 miles long, which is almost the length of a football field.
Can you find Alabama on a US map?
What really happened
- Paleo-Indians lived in this region more than 10,000 years ago. In the 1500s, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek tribes lived here. The Seminole tribe lived in nearby Florida. They were sometimes called the Five Civilized Tribes because they adopted parts of European culture.
- In 1540, Spanish adventurer Hernando de Soto became the first European to explore what is now Alabama, searching for gold. No gold was ever found. However, one of the bloodiest single battles erupted between the Spanish and Choctaw chief, Tuskaloosa. Thousands of Native Americans were slaughtered.
- During the next 250 years, the French, British, English and Spanish struggled to control the area. A permanent European settlement was made in 1702 on the Mobile River. In 1719, slave ships brought the first enslaved Africans to clear the land for rice and indigo crops.
- In 1763, England won the struggle against France for land in the French and Indian War. Many British colonists and traders moved to the area. Twenty years later (in 1783), Great Britain surrendered all of the state except the Mobile area to the newly formed United States. Spain was granted Mobile.
- During the War of 1812, the United States claimed the Mobile area as part of the Louisiana Purchase and drove the Spanish out.
- The United States needed more land for white settlers. By 1806, Native American tribes voluntarily relocated, were forced off their land, or gave their land to the federal government.
- In 1819, Alabama became the 22nd US state.
- Between 1810 and 1830, the state’s population had soared to 300,000 largely due to the boom in the cotton industry. By 1860, it had reached almost one million people. Nearly half were enslaved African Americans who were forced to work for wealthy landowners. Likewise, Native Americans were almost completely wiped out after Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, otherwise known as the Trail of Tears.
- In 1861, the American Civil War started. Alabama withdrew from the Union and joined the Confederacy; the state was the birthplace of the Confederacy.
- After the Union won the war, Alabama was placed under military rule. It refused to ratify or pass the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted citizenship and equal rights to African Americans. Alabama was readmitted to the Union in 1868 after it passed a new state constitution that protected the civil rights of African Americans.
- In 1901, Alabama’s Constitution now prevented almost all African Americans, Native Americans and European Americans from voting. Racial tensions grew. Schools were also segregated. Thousands of African Americans from Alabama and other southern states fled to northern states in search of work and a better life.
- The Civil Rights movement began in Alabama in the 1950s. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white male passenger. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a pastor of a local church, directed many nonviolent protests, such as the bus boycott of 1955-1956 and the march between Selma and Montgomery (the state capital). King, protestors, and many others helped pass the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Stuff you should know
- Alabama’s state constitution has approximately 389,000 words and over 950 amendments. That makes it the longest state constitution and the most amended state constitution in the country. On average, state constitutions are amended roughly 115 times.
- The first 911 call in the United States was made by Rep. Rankin Fite, the Speaker of the House of the Alabama House of Representatives.
- A person who is from or lives in the state is called an Alabamian.
- In April 1861, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker sent a telegram from Alabama to Charleston authorizing Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard to fire on Fort Sumter. This was the first military action of the Civil War.
Crazy, funny, or just plain weird
- The world’s largest office chair is in the city of Anniston. It’s made from 10 tons of steel, is about 33 feet high, and weighs about 2,000 pounds. That’s more than a polar bear weighs or about the weight of an adult black rhinoceros!
- Approximately 200 people in Magnolia, Fish Rivers and Weeks Bay get their mail delivered by boat. It’s the only year-round water route in the US.
Tell me more
- The state has the most diverse snail species in the US – more than 200 different species!
- Alabama is where windshield wipers were first invented. During the winter of 1903, Mary Anderson who lived in Alabama was visiting New York. She was riding in a streetcar on a snowy day and noticed that the driver had to continually get out of the vehicle to clear the snow from the windshield. So, Anderson devised a swinging arm with a rubber blade that the driver could use from inside the vehicle.
- Manufacturers in Fort Payne make millions of socks each week. The city is known as the sock capital of the world.
- Montgomery was one of the capitals of the Confederate States.
- Alabama also has the most inland waterways of any state, with over 1,500 miles of water lines. You can go entirely by boat from Alabama to the Great Lakes. To get to Chicago, for example, you can travel 1,300 miles via the interior waterways, passing through a variety of rivers and locks.
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