Alabama History

Like every geographic region in the New World in both North and South America, Alabama history begins with its Native American peoples. The territory of many of these tribes spread into what are now neighboring states, especially Georgia and Mississippi. And one of the facts about Alabama is that, like many other U.S. states, it is named for one of its native tribes—the Alibamu. There are other tribes in the history of Alabama and many of their names (such as Biloxi and Cherokee) are familiar American words. Most of the tribes in the state were forced west over the course of their contact with Europeans, and there is today only one federally recognized tribe still in the state, the Poarch Creek band, located on a rural reservation about sixty miles east of Mobile.

The only deep water port in the state is located in Mobile Bay, which is today the home of the modern Alabama Cruise Port, an important port for the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean vacation cruises that travel to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It was here in Mobile Bay that Spanish explorers arrived in the early 1500s, and modern Alabama history began when the region was claimed for Spain as part of the Spanish territory of Florida. In the mid-sixteenth century, the English also claimed the region as part of the Province of Carolina. The history of Alabama also includes time as a French colony when Fort Louis (named for the French king) de la Mobile was established as the capital of French Louisiana in 1702.

French occupation in Alabama history ended when the 1763 Treaty of Paris resolved the French and Indian War, and the territory was ceded entirely to England. For the next fifty years or so, control seesawed back and forth between Spain, England, native Americans, and the newly independent United States, including the territories of Mississippi, Georgia and Florida. One of the pivotal facts about Alabama is that it was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state in 1819.

Stretching across the middle of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia is a region known as the Black Belt, named for its rich black soil so essential in the cultivation of cotton and other crops that became important in the history of Alabama and the slave plantations that drove the economy of the south until the Civil War. Large cotton plantations were established in this region, and Alabama's cotton production was so central to the southern economy that Montgomery, Alabama became the first capital of the Confederate States of America when Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861. One of the little known facts about Alabama tourism is that touring beautiful restored ante bellum mansions are on the list of things to do when visiting the state.

From the end of the Civil War until into the 1980s, the unsavory side of Alabama history includes African-American disenfranchisement and segregation, in spite of the not insubstantial opposition of progressive white Alabamans. And the state, once a capital of the Confederacy, became a center of the Civil Rights movement, beginning with Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery in 1955 and the subsequent Montgomery bus strike organized by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Other Alabama Civil Rights events that today draw tourists to the state include the 1963 non-violent Birmingham demonstrations, desegregation of the University of Alabama over the protests of Governor George Wallace and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young African-American girls.

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