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Alabama Profile

Size (Land Area): 50,645.33 sq mi. (131,170.803 sq km)
Population: 4,802,740
Capital: Montgomery
State abbreviation/Postal code: Ala./AL
Entered Union (rank): Dec. 14, 1819 (22)
Present Constitution Adopted: 1901
Motto: Audemus jura nostra defendere (We dare defend our rights)
Nickname: Yellowhammer State
Origin of Name: May come from Choctaw meaning “thicket-clearers” or “vegetation-gatherers”

State Symbols:


10 Largest Cities:

  1. Birmingham, 236,620
  2. Montgomery, 200,123
  3. Mobile, 193,464
  4. Huntsville, 164,237
  5. Tuscaloosa, 79,294
  6. Hoover, 65,070
  7. Dothan, 60,036
  8. Decatur, 54,239
  9. Auburn, 46,923
  10. Gadsden, 37,619


History in Brief

Like its neighbor, Georgia, the earliest known inhabitants of what is now Alabama were Moundbuilders with later members of the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, and the Creek Confederacy. The name Alabama comes from one of the Creek Indian tribes, it means "thicket clearers."

The earliest European explorers were Spanish, in search of gold. Hernando De Soto first led an expedition in 1539 and in 1559 an initial settlement was attempted by Spanish colonists from Mexico in the Mobile Bay area. It was later abandoned.

The next settlers were more successful and by 1682 the French claimed Louisiana, which included Alabama and extended from the Gulf Coast to Canada. The next 150 years were turbulent times for the area as first the French were removed by the French Indian War (1754-1763), and then British control of the area was removed by the Revolutionary war (1775-1783), the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812. Alabama became a separate territory and then the 22nd state when it entered the Union on December 14, 1819.

Like most of the southern states, Alabama's economy became tied to cotton and slavery, which forged most of the history for the state over the rest of the century. Alabama was a leader in the charge to secede from the US and when the Confederacy was formed, Montgomery became the first capital. After the Civil War, Alabama refused to ratify the 14th Amendment. The state was placed under military rule in 1867 for a year until it was finally readmitted to the union in 1868.

Race relations have played a huge role in the history of Alabama over the intervening years. Battles over integration of schools and society as a whole were heated. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Dr. Martin Luther King's marches helped lead the way for change, though it wasn't until 1970 that the percentage of blacks attending integrated schools finally reached 80%, up from the 15% of the year before.

Although cotton still dominated the state’s economy (along with a sharecropping system of that was an integral part of the black/white divide) until around 1915 when the boll weevil devastated the state’s cotton crop. Farmers began to invest in livestock and other crops. As the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a product of a search for relief from the Great Depression, brought inexpensive power to the state, manufacturing began to take a foothold.

Today, although poultry, cattle and farming (including cotton) are still a large part of Alabama's economy, manufacturing and tourism have taken a major role.

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