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Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States of Americamarker. It is bordered by Tennesseemarker to the north, Georgiamarker to the east, Floridamarker and the Gulf of Mexicomarker to the south, and Mississippimarker 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 2006.

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 and African Americans were underrepresented. 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 technology, as well as the establishment or expansion of multiple military installations, primarily those of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. The state has 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 Montgomerymarker, and the largest city by population is Birminghammarker. The largest city by total land area is Huntsvillemarker. The oldest city is Mobilemarker.

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 Albàamo 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 Frenchmarker as Alibamon with French maps identifying the river as Rivière des Alibamons. Other spellings of the appellation have included Alibamu, Alabamo, Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alabamu, and Allibamou.

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.

History

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 Sitemarker in Moundville, Alabamamarker. 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 Mobilemarker 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 1819. Its constitution provided for universal suffrage for white men.

Alabama was part of the new frontier in the 1820s and 1830s. Settlers rapidly arrived to take advantage of its fertile soil. 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" was built around large cotton plantations whose owners built their wealth on slave labor. It was named for the dark, productive 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 declared its secession from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. While few 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 restored 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 disfranchised African Americans through voting restrictions. While the planter class had engaged poor whites in supporting these efforts, the new restrictions resulted in disfranchising poor whites as well. By 1941, a total of more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 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 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 disfranchisement 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. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also protected the suffrage of poor whites.

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 population growth rate in Alabama (see "Historical Populations" table below) dropped by nearly half from 1910–1920, reflecting the effect of outmigration.

At the same time, many rural whites and blacks migrated to the city of Birminghammarker 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 economy.

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 Birmingham.

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. Urban interests were consistently underrepresented in the legislature. 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 protection 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 or repealed.

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 legislature implemented the Alabama constitution's provision for periodic redistricting based on population. 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, although Democrats are still the majority party in both houses of the legislature.

Geography



Alabama is the thirtieth largest state in the United States with 52,423 square miles (135,775 km²) 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.

The states bordering Alabama are Tennesseemarker to the north; Georgiamarker to the east; Floridamarker to the south; and Mississippimarker to the west. Alabama has coastline at the Gulf of Mexicomarker, in the extreme southern edge of the state. Alabama ranges in elevation from sea level at Mobile Baymarker to over 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountainsmarker in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheahamarker, at a height of . Alabama's land consists of of forest or 67% of total land area. Suburban Baldwin Countymarker, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in the state in both land area and water area.

Areas in Alabama administered by the National Park Service include Horseshoe Bend National Military Parkmarker near Alexander Citymarker; Little River Canyon National Preservemarker near Fort Paynemarker; Russell Cave National Monumentmarker in Bridgeportmarker; Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Sitemarker in Tuskegeemarker; and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Sitemarker near Tuskegeemarker. Additionally, Alabama has four National Forests including Conecuhmarker, Talladegamarker, Tuskegeemarker, and William B.marker Bankheadmarker. Alabama also contains the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, and the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail. A notable natural wonder in Alabama is "Natural Bridge"marker rock, the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies, located just south of Haleyvillemarker, in Winston Countymarker.

A -wide meteorite impact crater is located in Elmore Countymarker, just north of Montgomery. This is the Wetumpka cratermarker, which is the site of "Alabama's greatest natural disaster". A -wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago. The hills just east of downtown Wetumpkamarker 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.

Urban areas



Rank Metropolitan Area Population (2008 estimates)
1 Birmingham-Hoovermarker 1,117,608
2 Mobilemarker 404,406
3 Huntsvillemarker 386,632
4 Montgomerymarker 365,962
5 Tuscaloosa 205,218
6 Decaturmarker 150,125
7 Florence-Muscle Shoalsmarker 143,791
8 Dothan 139,499
9 Auburn-Opelikamarker 130,516
10 Anniston-Oxfordmarker 113,103
11 Gadsdenmarker 103,217
Total 3,260,077


Rank City Population

(2008 estimates)
1 Birminghammarker 228,798
2 Montgomerymarker 202,696
3 Mobilemarker 191,022
4 Huntsvillemarker 176,645
5 Tuscaloosamarker 90,221
6 Hoovermarker 71,020
7 Dothanmarker 66,505
8 Auburnmarker 56,088
9 Decaturmarker 56,068
10 Madisonmarker 38,714


Climate

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 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 temperatures averaging over throughout the summer in some parts of the state. Alabama is also prone to tropical storms and even hurricanes. Areas of the state far away from the Gulf are not immune to the effects of the storms, which often dump tremendous amounts of rain as they move inland and weaken.



South Alabama reports more thunderstorms than any part of the U.S. The Gulf Coast, around Mobile Bay, averages between 70 and 80 days per year with thunder reported. This activity decreases somewhat further north in the state, but even the far north of the state reports thunder on about 60 days per year. Occasionally, thunderstorms are severe with frequent lightning and large hail – the central and northern parts of the state are most vulnerable to this type of storm. Alabama ranks seventh in the number of deaths from lightning and ninth in the number of deaths from lightning strikes per capita. Sometimes tornadoes occur – these are common throughout the state, although the peak season for tornadoes varies from the northern to southern parts of the state. Alabama shares the dubious distinction, with Kansasmarker, of having reported more F5 tornadoes than any other state – according to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center for the period January 1, 1950, to October 31, 2006. An F5 tornado is the most powerful of its kind. Several long – tracked F5 tornadoes have contributed to Alabama reporting more tornado fatalities than any other state except for Texasmarker and Mississippimarker. The Super Outbreak of March, 1974, badly affected Alabama. The northern part of the state – along the Tennessee Valley – is one of the areas in the US most vulnerable to violent tornadoes. The area of Alabama and Mississippi most affected by tornadoes is sometimes referred to as Dixie Alley, as distinct from the Tornado Alley of the Southern Plains. Alabama is one of the few places in the world that has a secondary tornado season (November and December) in addition to the spring severe weather season.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average January low temperatures around in Mobile and around in Birmingham. Although snow is a rare event in much of Alabama, areas of the state north of Montgomery may receive a dusting of snow a few times every winter, with an occasional moderately heavy snowfall every few years. For example, the annual average snowfall for the Birmingham area is 2 inches per year. In the southern Gulf coast, snowfall is less frequent, sometimes going several years without any snowfall.

Monthly normal high and low temperatures for various Alabama cities
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
City temp °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C °F °C
Birmingham high style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;"
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Huntsville high style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;"
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Mobile high style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;"
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Montgomery high style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;" style="text-align:center; background:#e5afaa; color:Black;"
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Demographics

Alabama population density map


The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2008, estimated Alabama's population at 4,661,900, which represents an increase of 214,545, or 4.8%, since the last census in 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 121,054 people (that is 502,457 births minus 381,403 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 104,991 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 31,180 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 73,811 people. The state had 108,000 foreign-born (2.4% of the state population), of which an estimated 22.2% were illegal immigrants (24,000).

The center of population of Alabama is located in Chilton Countymarker, outside of the town of Jemisonmarker, an area known as Jemison Division.

Race and ancestry

The racial makeup of the state and comparison to the prior census:

The largest reported ancestry groups in Alabama: African American (26.0%), American (17.0%), English (7.8%), Irish (7.7%), German (5.7%), and Scots-Irish (2.0%). 'American' does not include those reported as Native American.

Religion

Alabama is located in the middle of the Bible Belt. In a 2007 survey, nearly 70% of respondents could name all four of the Christian Gospels. Of those who indicated a religious preference, 59% said they possessed a "full understanding" of their faith and needed no further learning. In a 2007 poll, 92% of Alabamians reported having at least some confidence in churches in the state. The Mobile area is notable for its large percentage of Catholics, owing to the area's unique early history under French and Spanish rule. Today, a huge percentage of Alabamians identify themselves as Protestants.

In the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 80% of Alabama respondents reported their religion as "Other Christian" (survey's label), 6% as Catholic, and 11% as having no religion at all.

Economy



According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2008 total gross state product was $170 billion, or $29,411 per capita. Alabama's 2008 GDP increased 0.7% from the previous year. The single largest increase came in the area of information. 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 Texasmarker, Georgiamarker and Mississippimarker 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 Huntsvillemarker area, which is home of the NASAmarker George C.marker Marshall Space Flight Centermarker and the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenalmarker.

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 Regions Financial Corporation. Birmingham-based Compass Banchshares was acquired by Madrid-based BBVA in September 2007; the headquarters of the new BBVA Compass Bank remains in Birmingham. 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 construction firms.

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), The University of Alabama in Huntsville 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 Mobilemarker, Alabama's only saltwater port, is a busy seaport on the Gulf of Mexicomarker with inland waterway access to the Midwest via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The Port of Mobilemarker is the 10th largest by tonnage in the United States. In May 2007, a site north of Mobilemarker was selected by German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp for a $3.7 billion steel production plant, with the promise of 2,700 permanent jobs.

Taxes

Alabama's tax structure is one the most regressive in the United States. Alabama levies a 2, 4, or 5 percent personal income tax, depending upon the amount earned and filing status, though taxpayers can deduct their federal income tax from their Alabama state tax.

The state's general sales tax rate is 4%. The collection rate could be substantially higher, depending upon additional city and county sales taxes. For example, the total sales tax rate in Mobile is 9% and there is an additional restaurant tax of 1%, which means that a diner in Mobile would pay a 10% tax on a meal. Sales and excise taxes in Alabama account for 51 percent of all state and local revenue, compared with an average of about 36 percent nationwide. Alabama is also one of the few remaining states that levies a tax on food and medicine. Alabama's income tax on poor working families is among the nation's very highest. Alabama is the only state that levies income tax on a family of four with income as low as $4,600, which is barely one-quarter of the federal poverty line. Alabama's threshold is the lowest among the 41 states and the District of Columbia with income taxes.

The corporate income tax rate is currently 6.5%. The overall federal, state, and local tax burden in Alabama ranks the state as the second least tax-burdened state in the country. Property taxes are the lowest in the United States. The current state constitution requires a voter referendum to raise property taxes. One of its amendments lowered the percentage of fair-market value at which property was taxed and another declared that timber and farmland would be taxed on the value of its current use instead of what the land is worth.

Since Alabama's tax structure largely depends on consumer spending, it is subject to high variable budget structure. For example, in 2003 Alabama had an annual budget deficit as high as $670 million. It is one of only a few states to accomplish large surpluses, with a budget surplus of nearly $1.2 billion in 2007, and estimated at more than $2.1 billion for 2008. However, the declining national economy in 2008 has eliminated that surplus and the state is again facing shortfall, with the governor declaring "proration," which will result in an immeditate education budget cut and school layoffs.

Transportation

Alabama state welcome sign.


Alabama has five major interstate roads that cross it: I-65 runs north–south roughly through the middle of the state; I-59/I-20 travels from the central west border to Birmingham, where I-59 continues to the north-east corner of the state and I-20 continues east towards Atlanta; I-85 originates in Montgomery and runs east-northeast to the Georgia border, providing a main thoroughfare to Atlanta; and I-10 traverses the southernmost portion of the state, running from west to east through Mobile. Another interstate road, I-22, is currently under construction. When completed around 2012 it will connect Birmingham with Memphis, Tennesseemarker. Several US Highways also pass through the state, such as US 11, US 29, US 31, US 43, US 72, US 78, US 80, US 82, US 84, US 98, US 231, and US 280.

Major airports in Alabama include Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airportmarker (BHM), Huntsville International Airportmarker (HSV), Dothan Regional Airportmarker (DHN), Mobile Regional Airportmarker (MOB), Montgomery Regional Airportmarker (MGM), Muscle Shoals – Northwest Alabama Regional Airportmarker (MSL), Tuscaloosa Regional Airportmarker (TCL), and Pryor Field Regional Airportmarker (DCU). For rail transport, Amtrak schedules the Crescent, a daily passenger train, running from New York to New Orleans with stops at Anniston, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa.

Water ports

Aerial view of the port of Mobile


Listed from north to south

Port name Location Connected to
Port of Florencemarker Florencemarker/Muscle Shoalsmarker, on Pickwick Lake Tennessee River
Port of Decaturmarker Decaturmarker, on Wheeler Lakemarker Tennessee River
Port of Guntersvillemarker Guntersvillemarker, on Lake Guntersvillemarker Tennessee River
Port of Birminghammarker Birminghammarker, on Black Warrior River Tenn-Tom Waterway
Port of Tuscaloosamarker Tuscaloosamarker, on Black Warrior River Tenn-Tom Waterway
Port of Montgomerymarker Montgomerymarker, on Woodruff Lake Alabama River
Port of Mobilemarker Mobilemarker, on Mobile Baymarker Gulf of Mexicomarker


Law and government

The State Capitol, built in 1850


State government

The foundational document for Alabama's government is the Alabama Constitution, which was ratified in 1901. At almost 800 amendments and 310,000 words, it is the world's longest constitution and is roughly forty times the length of the U.S. Constitution. There is a significant movement to rewrite and modernize Alabama's constitution. This movement is based upon the fact that Alabama's constitution highly centralizes power in Montgomery and leaves practically no power in local hands. Any policy changes proposed around the state must be approved by the entire Alabama legislature and, frequently, by state referendum. One criticism of the current constitution claims that its complexity and length were intentional to codify segregation and racism.

Alabama is divided into three equal branches:The legislative branch is the Alabama Legislature, a bicameral assembly composed of the Alabama House of Representatives, with 105 members, and the Alabama Senate, with 35 members. The Legislature is responsible for writing, debating, passing, or defeating state legislation.

The executive branch is responsible for the execution and oversight of laws. It is headed by the Governor of Alabama. Other members of executive branch include the cabinet, the Attorney General of Alabama, the Alabama Secretary of State, the Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, the Alabama State Treasurer, and the Alabama State Auditor.

The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and applying the law in state criminal and civil cases. The highest court is the Supreme Court of Alabamamarker.

Local and county government

Alabama has 67 counties. Each county has its own elected legislative branch, usually called the County Commission, which usually also has executive authority in the county. Due to the restraints placed in the Alabama Constitution, all but seven counties (Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Madison, Montgomery, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa) in the state have little to no home rule. Instead, most counties in the state must lobby the Local Legislation Committee of the state legislature to get simple local policies such as waste disposal to land use zoning.

Alabama is an alcoholic beverage control state; the government holds a monopoly on the sale of alcohol. However, counties can declare themselves "dry"; the state does not sell alcohol in those areas.

State politics

Alabama Governor Bob Riley in 2004


The current governor of the state is Republican Bob Riley. The lieutenant governor is Jim Folsom Jr. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is Democrat Sue Bell Cobb. The Democratic Party currently holds a large majority in both houses of the Legislature. Due to the Legislature's power to override a gubernatorial veto by a mere simple majority (most state Legislatures require a 2/3 majority to override a veto), the relationship between the executive and legislative branches can be easily strained when different parties control the branches.

During Reconstruction following the American Civil War, Alabama was occupied by federal troops of the Third Military District under General John Pope. In 1874, the political coalition known as the Redeemers took control of the state government from the Republicans, in part by suppressing the African American vote.

After 1890, a coalition of whites passed laws to segregate and disenfranchise black residents, a process completed in provisions of the 1901 constitution. Provisions which disfranchised African Americans also disfranchised poor whites, however. By 1941 more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 600,000 to 520,000, although the impact was greater on the African-American community, as almost all of its citizens were disfranchised.

From 1901 to the 1960s, the state legislature failed to perform redistricting as population grew and shifted within the state. The result was a rural minority that dominated state politics until a series of court cases required redistricting in 1972.

With the disfranchisement of African Americans, the state became part of the "Solid South", a one-party system in which the Democratic Party became essentially the only political party in every Southern state. For nearly 100 years, local and state elections in Alabama were decided in the Democratic Party primary, with generally only token Republican challengers running in the General Election.

In the 1986 Democratic primary election, the then-incumbent Lieutenant Governor, Bill Baxley, lost the Democratic nomination for Governor in a scandal where Republicans were permitted to cast votes for his opponent, then Attorney General Charlie Graddick. The state Democratic party invalidated the election and placed the Baxley's name on the ballot as the Democratic candidate instead of the candidate chosen in the primary. The voters of the state revolted at what they perceived as disenfranchisement of their right to vote and elected the Republican challenger Guy Hunt as Governor. This was the first Republican Governor elected in Alabama since Reconstruction. Since then, Republicans have become increasingly competitive in Alabama politics. They currently control both seats in the U.S. Senate, four out of the state's seven congressional seats. Republicans hold an 8–1 majority on the Alabama Supreme Courtmarker and have a 5–2 majority among statewide elected executive branch offices.

However, Democrats currently hold all three seats on the Alabama Public Service Commission and they maintain control of both houses of the legislature, holding approximately 59.4% of seats in the Alabama Senate and 58.7% of seats in the Alabama House of Representatives. A majority of local offices in the state are still held by Democrats. Generally speaking, local elections in rural counties are decided in the Democratic Primary and local elections in metropolitan counties are decided in the Republican Primary although there are exceptions to this rule. Only one Republican Lt. Governor has been elected since Reconstruction, Steve Windom. Windom served as Lt. Governor under Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman. The last time that Alabama had a governor and Lt. governor of the same party was the period between 1983-1987 when Wallace was serving his fourth term as governor and Bill Baxley was serving as Lt. Governor, both were Democrats.

An overwhelming majority of sheriff's offices in Alabama are in Democratic hands. However, most of the Democratic sheriffs preside over more rural and less populated counties and the majority of Republicans preside over more urban/suburban and more populated counties. Only three Alabama counties (Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Calhoun) with a population of over 100,000 have Democratic sheriffs and only five Alabama counties with a population of under 75,000 have Republican sheriffs (Autauga, Coffee, Dale, Coosa, and Blount).

Alabama state politics gained nationwide and international attention in the 1950s and 1960s during the American Civil Rights Movement, when majority whites bureaucratically, and at times, violently resisted protests for electoral and social reform. George Wallace, the state's governor, remains a notorious and controversial figure. Only with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 did African Americans regain suffrage and other civil rights.

In 2007, the Alabama Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a resolution expressing "profound regret" over slavery and its lingering impact. In a symbolic ceremony, the bill was signed in the Alabama State Capitolmarker, which housed Congress of the Confederate States of America.

National politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic State winner
2008 60.32% 1,266,546 38.80% 813,479 John McCain
2004 62.46% 1,176,394 36.84% 693,933 George W. Bush
2000 56.47% 944,409 41.59% 695,602 George W. Bush
1996 50.12% 769,044 43.16% 662,165 Bob Dole
1992 47.65% 804,283 40.88% 690,080 George Bush
1988 59.17% 815,576 39.86% 549,506 George Bush
1984 60.54% 872,849 38.28% 551,899 Ronald Reagan
1980 48.75% 654,192 47.45% 636,730 Ronald Reagan
1976 42.61% 504,070 55.73% 659,170 Jimmy Carter
1972 72.43% 728,701 25.54% 256,923 Richard Nixon
1968* 13.99% 146,923 18.72% 196,579 George Wallace (I)
1964 69.45% 479,085 30.55% 210,732 Barry Goldwater
1960 42.16% 237,981 56.39% 318,303 John F. Kennedy
*State won by George Wallace

of the American Independent Party,

at 65.86%, or 691,425 votes


From 1876 through 1956, Alabama supported only Democratic presidential candidates, by large margins. 1960 was a curious election. The Democrats won with John F. Kennedy on the ballot, but the Democratic electors from Alabama gave 6 of their 11 electoral votes as a protest to Harry Byrd. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater carried the state, in part because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which restored the franchise for African Americans.

In the 1968 presidential election, Alabama supported native son and American Independent Party candidate George Wallace over both Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Wallace was the official Democratic candidate in Alabama, while Humphrey was listed as the "National Democratic". In 1976, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter from Georgia carried the state, the region, and the nation, but Democratic control of the region slipped after that.

Since 1980, conservative Alabama voters have increasingly voted for Republican candidates at the Federal level, especially in Presidential elections. By contrast, Democratic candidates have been elected to many state-level offices and comprise a longstanding majority in the Alabama Legislature; see Dixiecrat.

In 2004, George W. Bush won Alabama's nine electoral votes by a margin of 25 percentage points with 62.5% of the vote, mostly white voters. The eleven counties that voted Democratic were Black Belt counties, where African Americans are the majority racial group.

The state's two U.S. senators are Jefferson B. Sessions III and Richard C. Shelby, both Republicans.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the state is represented by seven members, four of whom are Republicans: (Jo Bonner, Mike D. Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Spencer Bachus) and three are Democrats: (Bobby Bright, Parker Griffith and Artur Davis).

Education

Primary and secondary education

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 secondary students.

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. In 2004, 23 percent of schools met AYP.

While Alabama's public education system has improved, it 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 without degrees.

Colleges and universities



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 two-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 plethora of subject focused national and international accreditation agencies.

Professional sports teams

Club Sport League
Birmingham Barons Baseball Southern League
Huntsville Stars Baseball Southern League
Mobile BayBears Baseball Southern League
Montgomery Biscuits Baseball Southern League
Huntsville Havoc Ice hockey Southern Professional Hockey League
Alabama Renegades (Huntsville) Football National Women's Football Association
Tennessee Valley Vipers (Huntsville) Arena football af2
Rocket City United (Huntsville) Soccer National Premier Soccer League


Notable Alabamians

Famous people from Alabama include Hank Aaron, Tommie Agee, Tallulah Bankhead, William Brockman Bankhead, Jay Barker, Charles Barkley, Regina Benjamin, Hugo L. Black, Frank Bolling, Paul W. Bryant, Jimmy Buffett, Bo Bice, George Washington Carver, Nat King Cole, Jerricho Cotchery, Courteney Cox Arquette, Robert Gibbs, Mitch Holleman, Zelda Fitzgerald, Charles Ghigna, Winston Groom, William C. Handy, Taylor Hicks, Joe Hilley, Bo Jackson, Kate Jackson, Jamey Johnson, Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King, William R. King, Harper Lee, Joe Louis, William March, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Roy Moore, John Hunt Morgan, Jim Nabors, Randy Owen, Jesse Owens, Terrell Owens,Satchel Paige, Jake Peavy, Claude Pepper, Rosa Parks, Wilson Pickett, Howell Raines, Condoleezza Rice, Lionel Richie, Rich Boy, Philip Rivers, JaMarcus Russell, Kenny Stabler, Ozzie Smith, John Sparkman, Bart Starr, Ruben Studdard, Channing Tatum, Oscar W. Underwood, George Wallace, Booker T. Washington, Billy Williams, and Hank Williams.

See also



Cultural sites





Events



Venues



References

  1. George Mason University, United States Election Project: Alabama Redistricting Summary, accessed March 10, 2008
  2. The use of state names derived from Native American languages is common with an estimated 27 states having names of Native American origin.
  3. Glenn Feldman. The Disfranchisement Myth: Poor Whites and Suffrage Restriction in Alabama. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004, p. 136.
  4. http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Birmingham
  5. Civil Rights Act of 1964
  6. Alabama Forest Owner's Guide to Information Resources, Introduction, Alabamaforests.org
  7. "Wetumpka Impact Crater" Wetumpka Public Library. Retrieved August 21, 2007.
  8. "The Wetumpka Astrobleme" by John C. Hall, Alabama Heritage, Fall 1996, Number 42.
  9. "Alabama Climate", Encyclopedia Britannica, Retrieved May 7, 2007
  10. Lightning Fatalities, Injuries and Damages in the United States, 1990–2003, Retrieved May 8, 2007
  11. Fujita scale. Tornadoproject.com. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  12. Alabama Weather and Climate. US Travel Weather
  13. full release with tables
  14. [1]
  15. Comparison of State and Local Retail Sales Taxes, July 2004 Retrieved on May 25, 2007
  16. Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform
  17. http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/c2kbr-24.pdf
  18. Education Statistics. CensusScope.org
  19. World Almanac & Book of Facts, Reader's Digest Publishing, 2008.


Further reading

For a detailed bibliography, see the History of Alabama.
  • Atkins, Leah Rawls, Wayne Flynt, William Warren Rogers, and David Ward. Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (1994)
  • Flynt, Wayne. Alabama in the Twentieth Century (2004)
  • Owen Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography 4 vols. 1921.
  • Jackson, Harvey H. Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State (2004)
  • Mohl, Raymond A. "Latinization in the Heart of Dixie: Hispanics in Late-twentieth-century Alabama" Alabama Review 2002 55(4): 243–274. ISSN 0002-4341
  • Peirce, Neal R. The Deep South States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Seven Deep South States (1974). Information on politics and economics 1960–72.
  • Williams, Benjamin Buford. A Literary History of Alabama: The Nineteenth Century 1979.
  • WPA. Guide to Alabama (1939)


External links




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