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Alabama (i /ˌæləˈbæmə/) is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States of America. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi 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. Despite the growth of major industries and urban centers, white rural interests dominated the state legislature until the 1960s, while urban interests and African Americans were under-represented. Following World War II, Alabama experienced growth as the economy of the state transitioned from agriculture to diversified interests in heavy manufacturing, mineral extraction, education, and technology. In addition, the establishment or expansion of multiple military installations, primarily those of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, added to state jobs.
Alabama is unofficially nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, after 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 Montgomery. The largest city by population is Birmingham. The largest city by total land area is Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile, founded by French colonists.
The Alabama, a Muskogean-speaking tribe whose members lived 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 French 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 could be discerned, sources disagree on its meaning. An 1842 article in the Jacksonville Republican 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 to support such a translation. Scholars believe the word comes from the Choctaw alba (meaning "plants" or "weeds") and amo (meaning "to cut", "to trim", or "to gather"). The meaning may have been "clearers of the thicket" or "herb gatherers" which may refer to clearing of land for cultivation or to collecting medicinal plants.
Indigenous peoples of varying cultures lived in the area for thousands of years before European colonization. Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC–AD 700) 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 Site in Moundville, Alabama. Analysis of artifacts recovered from archaeological excavations at Moundville were the basis of scholars' formulating the characteristics of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). Contrary to popular belief, the SECC appears to have no direct links to Mesoamerican culture, but developed independently. The Ceremonial Complex represents a major component of the religion of the Mississippian peoples; it is one of the primary means by which their religion is understood.
Among the historical tribes of Native American people living in the area of present-day Alabama at the time of European contact were Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee, and Muskogean Alabama (Alibamu),Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, and Mobile.
The French founded the first European settlement in the present-day state at Mobile 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 United States Mississippi Territory thereafter. Statehood was delayed by the territory's lack of a coastline; when Andrew Jackson captured Spanish Mobile in 1814, he claimed that area for the US and gained passage to the gulf. 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 American Civil War. All the slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. During Reconstruction, the new state legislators created a public school system for the first time, as well as establishing some welfare institutions to help the people. Alabama was restored to the Union in 1868.
After the Civil War, the state was still chiefly agricultural, with an economy 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 racial segregation to regain political power, restore their dominance and reduce civil rights and freedom of African Americans.
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 legislative efforts, the new restrictions resulted in disfranchising poor whites as well, due mostly to imposition of a cumulative poll tax. The law was in effect for decades. By 1941, a total of more whites than blacks had been disfranchised: 600,000 whites to 520,000 blacks.
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 consistently underfunded schools and services for the disfranchised 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 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 emigration.
At the same time, many rural whites and blacks migrated to the city of Birmingham 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 Birmingham.
One result was that Jefferson County, containing Birmingham's industrial and economic powerhouse, contributed more than one-third of all tax revenue to the state, but did not received a proportional amount in services. 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."
African Americans were presumed partial to Republicans for historical reasons, but they were disfranchised. White Alabamans felt bitter towards the Republican Party in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. These factors created a longstanding tradition that any candidate who wanted to be viable with white voters had to run as a Democrat regardless of political beliefs. The state continued as one-party Democratic for more than a century after Reconstruction ended. 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, as well as 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 voted increasingly Republican in state elections. Democrats are still the majority party in both houses of the legislature.
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 Tennessee to the north; Georgia to the east; Florida to the south; and Mississippi to the west. Alabama has coastline at the Gulf of Mexico, in the extreme southern edge of the state. Alabama ranges in elevation from sea level at Mobile Bay to over 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheaha, at a height of 2,407 ft (734 m). Alabama's land consists of 22 million acres (89,000 km2) of forest or 67% of total land area. Suburban Baldwin County, 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 Park near Alexander City; Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne; Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport; Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee; and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site near Tuskegee. Additionally, Alabama has four National Forests including Conecuh, Talladega, Tuskegee, and William B. Bankhead. 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" rock, the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies, located just south of Haleyville, in Winston County.
A 5-mile (8 km)-wide meteorite impact crater is located in Elmore County, just north of Montgomery. This is the Wetumpka crater, which is the site of "Alabama's greatest natural disaster". A 1,000-foot (300 m)-wide meteorite hit the area about 80 million years ago. The hills just east of downtown Wetumpka 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.
The state is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa) under the Koppen Climate Classification. The average annual temperature is 64 °F (18 °C). Temperatures tend to be warmer in the southern part of the state with its 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 56 inches (1,400 mm) 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 90 °F (32 °C) 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 Kansas, of having reported more EF5 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 Texas and Mississippi. The Super Outbreak in 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) along with 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 40 °F (4 °C) in Mobile and around 32 °F (0 °C) 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.
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 County, outside of the town of Jemison, an area known as Jemison Division.
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.
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 majority of Alabamians identify themselves as Protestants.
In the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 80% of Alabama respondents reported their religion as Christian (other than Catholic,) 6% as Catholic, and 11% as having no religion at all.
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. 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.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is 11.1%.
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 Texas, Georgia and Mississippi 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 Huntsville area, location of NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal.
Alabama is part of the largest industrial growth corridor in the nation. Most of this growth is due to Alabama's rapidly expanding automotive manufacturing industry. Headquartered in the state are Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama. Since 1993, the automobile industry has generated more than 67,800 new jobs in the state. Alabama currently ranks 4th in the nation in automobile output.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham's economy was transformed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)'s investments in bio-technology and medical research. 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, headquarters of the 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 eighth-largest U.S. bank based on 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 has a technology-driven economy, a result of 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 help drive the economy. CRP is the second largest research park in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. Huntsville has 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. is headquartered in Huntsville. Cinram manufactures and distributes 20th Century Fox DVDs and Blu-ray Discs out of their Huntsville plant. Sanmina-SCI 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 Mobile, Alabama's only saltwater port, is a busy seaport on the Gulf of Mexico with inland waterway access to the Midwest by way of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The Port of Mobile is currently the 9th largest by tonnage in the United States. In May 2007, a site north of Mobile was selected by German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp for a $3.7 billion steel production plant, with the promise of 2,700 permanent jobs.
$9 billion is spent annually on "travel related expenses." This figure is used to indicate the extent of tourism.
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.
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 immediate education budget cut and school layoffs.
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, Tennessee. 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 Airport (BHM), Huntsville International Airport (HSV), Dothan Regional Airport (DHN), Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM), Muscle Shoals – Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL), Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (TCL), and Pryor Field Regional Airport (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.
Listed from north to south
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 Alabama.
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. Because of 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.
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. Because of the Legislature's power to override a gubernatorial veto by a mere simple majority (most state Legislatures require a two-thirds 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 to then Attorney General Charles 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 Court 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. Local elections in rural counties are generally 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 and 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 Capitol, which housed Congress of the Confederate States of America.
From 1876 through 1956, Alabama supported only Democratic presidential candidates, by large margins. In 1960, 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, five of whom are Republicans: (Jo Bonner, Mike D. Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Parker Griffith, and Spencer Bachus) and two are Democrats: (Bobby Bright and Artur Davis).
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.
Alabama's programs of higher education include 14 four-year public universities, two-year community colleges, and 17 private, undergraduate and graduate universities. In the state are two medical schools (University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of South Alabama), two veterinary colleges (Auburn University and Tuskegee University), a dental school (University of Alabama at Birmingham), an optometry college (University of Alabama at Birmingham), two pharmacy schools (Auburn University and Samford University), and five law schools (University of Alabama School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, Cumberland School of Law, Miles Law School, and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law). 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.
Alabama has several minor league professional teams including four minor league baseball teams, and one Arena Football League team. Alabama is the second-most populous U.S. state, after Virginia, without a major professional sports league franchise.