Montgomery, Alabama: The Early Years

Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama, wasn’t always the bustling city it is today. It was once the home of Native Americans, and villages were spread out where buildings are today. In the early 1800s, three towns stood close together: Alabama Town, East Alabama, and Philadelphia. In 1819, these towns combined to form the city of Montgomery.

Montgomery didn’t become the state’s capital until 1846. As the threat of civil war approached, Alabamians decided to join several other southern states and secede from the Union. In 1861, the Confederate States of America was created at a meeting in Montgomery. The Confederacy fought against the northern Union during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, but it ultimately lost the conflict.

Montgomery and the Civil Rights Movement

Alabama was no longer allowed to keep slaves after the war ended, but the state stayed segregated along racial lines. During the 1950s and 60s, Montgomery became a key place as civil rights activists fought for equality.

On December 1, 1955, a black seamstress and civil rights activist named Rosa Parks was arrested because she would not give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white passenger. At the time, buses were segregated, with blacks expected to sit at the back, while whites would sit toward the front. Parks’ arrest sparked outrage among black residents and led to a boycott of the buses that lasted 382 days. The city finally desegregated the system on December 21, 1956.

A 1965 drive to register black voters in another Alabama city, Selma, resulted in violence between blacks and whites. Civil rights groups decided to hold a protest march from Selma to Montgomery so that black Americans could appeal directly to state governor George Wallace at the state capital for greater voting rights. The four-day journey to Montgomery was led by Martin Luther King Jr. It convinced Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, to outlaw discrimination around voting. A memorial in downtown Montgomery honors those who died while participating in the civil rights movement.

Interesting Facts and Places

  • The First White House of the Confederacy is located in Montgomery. Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, lived in the building.
  • Francis Scott Key (F. Scott) and Zelda Fitzgerald used to live in the city. There is still a museum dedicated to the famous author and his wife.
  • Old Alabama Town is a district that demonstrates what 19th-century living was like in the region.
  • Nearby is the Maxwell Air Force Base, which is home to the Air University. It is the site where Wilbur and Orville Wright operated the world’s first flight training school in 1910. In 1903, the Wright brothers designed the first powered and controlled airplane.
  • As of 2017, Montgomery’s population was 199,518.