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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Alabama

State History

Native Americans

The land that is today the state of Alabama was originally settled by two groups of Native Americans: the Cherokee and the Muskogee peoples. The Muskogee peoples included the Choctaw, the Creek, and the Chickasaw tribes. They were organized into clans such as the Bear Clan and the Fox Clan. They lived in small villages in domed-shaped homes with thatched roofs. The Cherokee lived in the northern portion of Alabama.

Europeans Arrive

The first European to arrive in the area was Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda in 1519. More Spanish explorers arrived in the early 1500s including Hernando de Soto in 1540. The Spanish were only searching for gold, however, and did not settle the land.

Early Settlers

The first European settlement, Fort Louis, was established by the French in 1702. In 1711, the fort was destroyed by a flood and the location was moved to the current site of Mobile, Alabama. In the 1700's, Europeans began to move to Alabama to farm the land. Many of them came from France and Canada. Originally most of the people settled around Mobile and left the rest of the land to the Native Americans.


Alabama Capitol Building
Alabama Capitol Building
by Carol M. Highsmith

Fighting over the Land

Alabama was controlled by the French until the French and Indian War broke out in 1754 between Britain and France. The local Indians sided with the French because they didn't want the British to take their land. However, the British won the war and took control in 1763. Alabama once again changed hands after the War of 1812 when it became part of the United States. In 1817, the U.S. Congress created the Alabama Territory with the city of Saint Stephens serving as the first capital.

During the War of 1812 the Creek Indians sided with the British. Andrew Jackson of the United States fought against the Creek and won. The Indians were then forced to sign treaties handing over much of their land to the United States.

Becoming a State

Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819. The first capital city was Huntsville. The capital later moved to other cities including Cahaba and Tuscaloosa before finally moving permanently to Montgomery in 1846.

Slavery

In order to help work the land, slaves were brought in from Africa. Over the years, slaves became an important part of the local economy. By 1860, out of the 964,000 people in the state, 435,000 were slaves.

Civil War

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Alabama seceded from the Union of the United States and joined the Confederate States of America. Some battles were fought in Alabama including the Battle of Mobile Bay, the Battle of Fort Blakely, and the Battle of Selma. Alabama also sent soldiers and supplies to the Confederate Army fighting in other regions of the country. After losing the war, the slaves in Alabama were freed. The state came under military rule from 1865 to 1868 and was under Reconstruction until 1874.

Civil Rights

Although the slaves had been freed after the Civil War, African Americans were still subject to discrimination and segregation. Laws called Jim Crow laws created separate schools, restaurants, drinking fountains, and more. Alabama became the center of the Civil Rights Movement with African Americans such as Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the way. Major civil rights protests in the state included the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Birmingham Campaign, and the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King, Jr. in background
Rosa Parks by Unknown

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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