Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819. Known as the “Heart of Dixie” because it is in the very middle of the Deep South (nicknamed Dixieland), it has a long and rich history. Initially, the land was settled by two groups of Native Americans: the Cherokee and Muskogee. The Muskogee peoples included the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek tribes. The name Alabama comes from a Native American word that loosely means “thicket clearers,” and many of the cities and areas also carry Native American names.
The Spanish were the first Europeans to enter Alabama and claimed the land for their Crown. They arrived at Mobile Bay in 1519. In 1540, Hernando de Soto and an army of about 500 men entered the region, which was then named La Florida, to search for gold. The Spaniards battled with the Choctaws in what is considered one of the worst encounters between Europeans and Native Americans in North America, resulting in thousands of indigenous lives lost. De Soto never found gold and did not establish any settlements in the area.
King Charles II of England granted land to his favorites using the charters of 1663 and 1665. English traders frequented the area as early as 1687 to trade for deerskins with the indigenous people of the area.
The French also began colonizing the region, and in 1702 they founded a settlement on the Mobile River and built Fort Luis. For nine years this was the French seat of government until it was abandoned in 1711 because of too much flooding in the area. They then resettled and built Fort Conde in what is now Mobile, Alabama. This became the first permanent European settlement in the state.
The 1763 Treaty of Paris gave Britain the Mobile area. In the Treaty of Paris 1783, which ended the American Revolution, Spain gained Mobile while the “new” United States got the rest of the territory known today as Alabama.
1800s: Conflicts and Wars
The War of 1812 had the Creek Indians fighting alongside the British against the Americans. Andrew Jackson, who would later become president, defeated the Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, and the Indians were forced to hand over much of their lands to the US through treaties.
In 1813, the US drove the Spaniards out of the area and claimed the land for itself.
Alabama was officially established as a separate territory in 1817 and, two years later, became a state. Huntsville was the first capital, then Cahaba and Tuscaloosa. Montgomery became the permanent capital in 1846.
Alabama depended on slave labor, and tensions grew as the Civil War approached. In 1861, Alabama seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. In 1867, the state was put under military rule because it refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves. The following year, the Amendment was ratified, and the state was allowed back into the Union with its own state government.
State Flower: The Camellia, also called “the rose of winter,” was designated the state flower in 1959 and appears on the Alabama quarter.
State Motto: Audemus Jura nostra Defendere, which means “We dare defend our rights.”
State Mascot: Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly.
State Bird: The Yellowhammer, a member of the woodpecker family.
State Tree: Southern longleaf pine.
- The Bus Boycott of 1955-56 in Montgomery caught the attention of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- In 1836, Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
- The Saturn V rocket was designed in Huntsville. It is what made it possible for humans to land on the moon.
- Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia.
- The Space and Rocket Center is in Huntsville.