ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Probably after the Alabama Indian tribe.
NICKNAME: The Heart of Dixie.
ENTERED UNION: 14 December 1819 (22nd).
MOTTO: Aldemus jura nostra defendere (We dare defend our rights).
COAT OF ARMS: Two eagles, symbolizing courage, support a shield bearing the emblems of the five governments (France. England. Spain. Confederacy. US) that have held sovereignty over Alabama. Above the shield is a sailing vessel modeled upon the ships of the first French settlers of Alabama; beneath the shield is the state motto.
FLAG: Crimson cross of St. Andrew on a square white field.
OFFICIAL SEAL: The map of Alabama, including names of major rivers and neighboring states, surrounded by the words "Alabama Great Seal."
TREE: Southern (longleaf) pine.
GEM: Star Blue Quartz.
LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. 3rd Monday in January; George Washington's/Thomas Jefferson's Birthdays, 3rd Monday in February; Mardi Gras, February or March; Confederate Memorial Day, 4th Monday in April; Jefferson Davis 's Birthday, 1st Monday in June; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day/American Indian Heritage Day, 2nd Monday in October; Veterans Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.
TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT.
LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
Located in the eastern south-central United States. Alabama ranks 29th in size among the 50 states.
The total area of Alabama is 51,705 sq mi (133,915 sq km), of which land constitutes 50,767 sq mi (131,486 sq km) and inland water, 938 sq mi (2,429 sq km). Alabama extends roughly 200 mi (320 km) e-w; the maximum n-s extension is 300 mi (480 km). Alabama is bordered on the n by Tennessee ; on the e by Georgia (with part of the line formed by the Chattahoochee River); on the s by Florida (with part of the line defined by the Perdido River) and the Gulf of Mexico; and on the w by Mississippi (with the northernmost part of the line passing through the Tennessee River).
Dauphin Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, is the largest offshore island. The total boundary length of Alabama is 1,044 mi (1,680 km). The state's geographic center is in Chilton County, 12 mi (19 km) sw of Clanton.
Alabama is divided into four major physiographic regions: the Gulf Coastal Plain, Piedmont Plateau, Ridge and Valley section, and Appalachian (or Cumberland) Plateau. The physical characteristics of each province have significantly affected settlement and industrial development patterns within the state.
The coastal plain, comprising the southern half of Alabama, consists primarily of lowlands and low ridges. Included within the coastal plain is the Black Belt — historically, the center of cotton production and plantation slavery in Alabama — an area of rich, chalky soil that stretches across the entire width of central Alabama. Just to the north, the piedmont of east-central Alabama contains rolling hills and valleys. Alabama's highest elevation, Cheaha Mountain, 2,405 ft (733 m) above sea level, is located at the northern edge of this region. North and west of the piedmont is a series of parallel ridges and valleys running in a northeast-southwest direction. Mountain ranges in this area include the Red, Shades, Oak, Lookout, and other noteworthy southern extensions of the Appalachian chain; elevations of 1,200 ft (366 m) are found as far south as Birmingham. The Appalachian Plateau covers most of northwestern Alabama, with a portion of the Highland Rim in the extreme north near the Tennessee border. The floodplain of the Tennessee River cuts a wide swath across both these northern regions. The lowest point in the state is at sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 500 ft (153 m).
The largest lake wholly within Alabama is Guntersville Lake, covering about 108 sq mi (280 sq km) and formed during the development of the Tennessee River region by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA lakes — also including Wheeler, Pickwick, and Wilson — are all long and narrow, fanning outward along a line that runs from the northeast corner of the state westward to Florence. Wetlands cover about 10% of the state.
The longest rivers are the Alabama, extending from the mid-central region to the Mobile River for a distance of about 160 mi (260 km); the Tennessee, which flows across northern Alabama for about the same distance; and the Tombigbee, which flows south from north-central Alabama for some 150 mi (240 km). The Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, which come together to form the Mobile River, and the Tensaw River flow into Mobile Bay, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. The Mobile River, which has its source in Tickanetley Creek, Georgia, has a total length of 774 mi (1,246 km) and is the twentieth longest river in the country.
About 450 million years ago, Alabama was covered by a warm, shallow sea. Over millions of years, heavy rains washed gravel, sand, and clay from higher elevations onto the rock floor of the sea to help form the foundation of modern Alabama. The skeletons and shells of sea animals, composed of limy material from rocks that had been worn away by water, settled into great thicknesses of limestone and dolomite. Numerous caves and sinkholes formed as water slowly eroded the limestone subsurface of northern Alabama. Archaeologists believe that Russell Cave, in northeastern Alabama, was the earliest site of human habitation in the southeastern US. Other major caves in northern Alabama are Manitou and Sequoyah; near Childersburg is DeSoto Caverns, a huge onyx cave once considered a sacred place by Creek Indians.
Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River is now a national historic monument. Other major dams include Guntersville, Martin, Millers Ferry, Jordan. Mitchell, and Holt.
Alabama's three climatic divisions are the lower coastal plain, largely subtropical and strongly influenced by the Gulf of Mexico; the northern plateau, marked by occasional snowfall in winter; and the Black Belt and upper coastal plain, lying between the two extremes. Among the major population centers, Birmingham has an annual average temperature of 63 ° f (17 ° c), with an average July daily maximum of 90 ° f (32 ° c) and a normal January daily minimum of 33 ° f (1 ° c). Montgomery has an annual average of 65 ° f (18 ° c), with a normal July daily average maximum of 92 ° f (33 ° c) and a normal January daily minimum of 37 ° f (2 ° c). The average in Mobile is 67 ° f (19 ° c), with a normal July daily maximum of 91 ° f (33 ° c) and a normal January daily minimum of 41 ° f (5 ° c). The record low temperature for the state is − 27 ° f ( − 33 ° c), registered at New Market, in the northeastern corner, on 30 January 1966; the all-time high is 112 ° f (44 ° c), registered at Centerville, in the state's midsection, on 5 September 1925. Mobile, one of the rainiest cities in the United States, recorded an average precipitation of 66.3 in (168 cm) a year between 1971 and 2000.
Its location on the Gulf of Mexico leaves the coastal region open to the effects of hurricanes. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the region, causing two deaths in Mobile, extensive flooding, and power outages for over 300,000 people.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Alabama was once covered by vast forests of pine, which still form the largest proportion of the state's forest growth. Alabama also has an abundance of poplar, cypress, hickory, oak, and various gum trees. Red cedar grows throughout the state; southern white cedar is found in the southwest, hemlock in the north. Other native trees include hackberry, ash, and holly, with species of palmetto and palm in the Gulf Coast region. There are more than 150 shrubs, mountain laurel and rhododendron among them. Cultivated plants include wisteria and camellia, the state flower.
In a state where large herds of bison, elk, bear, and deer once roamed, only the white-tailed deer remains abundant. Other mammals still found are the Florida panther, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, and most species of weasel. The fairly common raccoon, opossum, rabbit, squirrel, and red and gray foxes are also native, while nutria and armadillo have been introduced to the state. Alabama's birds include golden and bald eagles, osprey and various other hawks, yellowhammers or flickers (the state bird), and black and white warblers; game birds include quail, duck, wild turkey, and geese. Freshwater fish such as bream, shad, bass, and sucker are common. Along the Gulf Coast there are seasonal runs of tarpon (the state fish), pompano, redfish, and bonito.
In April 2006, a total of 96 species occurring within the state were on the threatened and endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These included 79 animals, the Alabama beach mouse, gray bat, Alabama red-belly turtle, finback and humpback whales, bald eagle, and wood stork among them, and 17 plant species.
Under the 1982 Alabama Environmental Management Act, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission was created and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) was established. The ADEM absorbed several commissions, programs, and agencies that had been responsible for Alabama's environment.
The Environmental Management Commission, whose seven members are appointed to six-year terms by the governor and approved by the Alabama Senate, is charged with managing the state's land, air, and water resources. The ADEM administers all major federal environmental requirements including the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and solid and hazardous waste laws. The most active environmental groups in the state are the Alabama Environmental Council, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Alabama Audubon Council, and Alabama Rivers Alliance.
Major concerns of environmentalists in the state are the improvement of land-use planning and the protection of ground-water. Another issue is the transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. In 2003, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) database listed 258 hazardous waste sites. As of 2006, 13 of these sites were on the National Priorities List; Alabama Plating Co. and Capitol City Plume were proposed sites. One of the nation's five largest commercial hazardous waste sites is in Emelle, in Sumter County. In 2005, the EPA allotted over $2.6 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. Alabama's solid waste stream is about 4.500 million tons a year (1.10 tons per capita). There are 108 municipal landfills and 8 curbside recycling programs in the state. Air quality is generally satisfactory. But in 2003, 118.4 million lb of toxic chemicals were released by the state. In 2005, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included over $20 million for clean water projects.
Alabama ranked 23rd in population among the 50 states in 2005 with an estimated total of 4,557,808, an increase of 2.5% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Alabama's population grew from 4,040,587 to 4,447,100, an increase of 10.1%. The population is projected to reach 4,663,111 by 2015 and 4,800,092 by 2025.
In 2004 the median age was 37. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 24.2% of the population, while 13.2% was age 65 or older.
Alabama experienced its greatest population growth between 1810 and 1820, following the defeat of the Creek Nation by General Andrew Jackson and his troops. Population in what is now Alabama boomed from 9,046 in 1810 to 127,901 in 1820, as migrants from older states on the eastern seaboard poured into the territory formerly occupied by the Creek Indians. Thousands of farmers, hoping to find fertile land or to become wealthy cotton planters, brought their families and often their slaves into the young state, more than doubling Alabama's population between 1820 and 1830. By 1860, Alabama had almost 1,000,000 residents, nearly one-half of whom were black slaves. The Civil War brought Alabama's population growth almost to a standstill, largely because of heavy losses on the battlefield. The total population gain between 1860 and 1870 was only about 30,000, whereas between 1870 and 1970, Alabama's population rose by 150,000-300,000 every decade. During the 1980s the population increased 148,000.
In 2004, Alabama had a population density of 89.3 persons per sq mi. First in size among Alabama's metropolitan areas comes greater Birmingham, which had an estimated 1,082,193 residents in July 2004. Other major metropolitan areas were Greater Mobile, 400,526; Greater Montgomery, 355,181; and Greater Huntsville, 362,459. The city of Birmingham proper was Alabama's largest city, with an estimated 233,149 residents in 2004; Montgomery had 200,983, and Mobile had 192,759.
Alabama's population is largely divided between whites of English and Scotch-Irish descent and blacks descended from African slaves. The 2000 census counted about 22,430 American Indians (up from 17,000 in 1990), or 0.5% of the total population, mostly of Creek or Cherokee descent. Creek Indians are centered around the small community of Poarch in southern Alabama; most of the Cherokee live in the northeastern part of the state, where the Cherokee reservation had 12,294 residents as of 2000. In 2004, 0.5% of Alabama's population was American Indian.
The black population of Alabama in 2000 numbered 1,155,930, or about 26% of the total population. In 2004, the black population of Alabama amounted to 26.4% of the total population. As before the Civil War, rural blacks are most heavily represented in the Black Belt of central Alabama.
In 2000, the Asian population totaled 31,346, or less than 1% of the total, and Pacific Islanders numbered 1,409; in the same year, the population of Hispanic or Latino descent totaled 75,830, up from 43,000 in 1990, an increase from 1% to 1.7% of the total population within the decade. In 2000, Alabama had 6,900 Asian Indians (up from 3,686 in 1990), 4,116 Koreans, and 6,337 Chinese (up from 3,529 in 1990). All told, the foreign born numbered 87,772 (2% of the state's population) in 2000, up from 1% 10 years earlier. Among persons reporting a single ancestry group, the leaders were Irish, 343,254 (down from 617,065 in 1990), and English, 344,735 (down from 479,499 in 1990). In 2004, 0.8% of the population of Alabama was Asian, 2.2% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 0.9% of the population reported origins of two or more races.
Alabama's Cajuns, of uncertain racial origin (Anglo-Saxon, French, Spanish, Choctaw, Apache, and African elements may all be represented), are ethnically unrelated to the Cajuns of Louisiana. Thought to number around 10,000, they live primarily in the pine woods area of upper Mobile and lower Washington counties. Many Alabama Cajuns suffer from poverty, poor health, and malnutrition.
Four Indian tribes — the Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee — occupied the four quarters of Alabama as white settlement began, but by treaty agreement they were moved westward between 1814 and 1835, leaving behind such place-names as Alabama, Talladega, Mobile, and Tuscaloosa.
Alabama English is predominantly Southern, with a transition zone between it and a smaller area into which South Midland speech was taken across the border from Tennessee. Some features common to both dialects occur throughout the state, such as croker sack (burlap bag), batter cakes (made of cornmeal), harp (harmonica), and snap beans. In the major Southern speech region are found the decreasing loss of final /r/, the /boyd/ pronunciation of bird, soft peach (freestone), press peach (clingstone), mosquito hawk (dragonfly), fire dogs (andirons), and gopher (burrowing turtle). In the northern third of the state are found South Midland arm and barb rhyming with form and orb, redworm (earthworm), peckerwood (woodpecker), snake doctor and snake feeder (dragonfly), tow sack (burlap bag), plum peach (clingstone), French harp (harmonica), and dog irons (andirons).
Alabama has experienced only minor foreign immigration, and in 2000, 96.1% of all residents five years old or older spoke only English at home, a slight decrease over the 97.1% recorded in 1990.
The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.