Geography and Landforms:

Alabama is comprised of coastal plains at the Gulf of Mexico sloping into hills and broken terrain in the north. Two thirds of the state are covered by the East Gulf Coastal Plain, including swamps. Above the coastal plain is the Appalachian Piedmont. The highest point in Alabama is Cheaha Mountain at 2,407 feet, near Lineville. Major rivers include the Tombigbee, the Alabama, the Tennessee and the Chattahoochee. Russell Cave National Monument, near Bridgeport, is the site of caves that were inhabited continuously from 6000 B.C. to A.D. 1650.


The first European to explore Alabama was Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda of Spain, who explored the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Mexico in 1519, including the area we now call Mobile Bay. The Spaniard Panfilo de Narvaez attempted to start a colony in 1528 along the Florida Gulf Coast, but was unsuccessful. Hernando de Soto, also from Spain, explored the Southeast, coming into conflict with Chief Tuskaloosa in the Battle of Maubila in 1540. De Soto destroyed the Indian village and most of its more than 2,000 residents. Another Spaniard, Don Tristan de Luna failed to establish a permanent Spanish colony on the Alabama Florida coast between 1559 and 1561.

In 1702, Iberville and Bienville Le Moyne, brothers from France, established a fort and settlement at Twenty-seven Mile Bluff. By 1712, the settlement was moved downriver to Mobile. In 1717, the French built another settlement, called Fort Toulouse, on the Coosa River. The settlement was designed to facilitate trade with the Indians and to counter the British influence that was growing in the area.

In 1721, the slave ship Africane arrived in Mobile with over 100 slaves. Slavery was introduced in the area under the French "Code Noir" (black law) brought from the French West Indies to the North American colonies. During the American Revolution, the Spanish captured Mobile and retained control of the area as part of the treaties ending the war. It was not until 1799, when US troops under Lt. John McClary took possession of Fort St. Stephens from the Spanish, that the US flag was raised for the first time on Alabama soil. The majority of the area remained under Spanish control. In 1802, Georgia formally gave up land south of the 31st parallel, leaving the area as part of what would become Alabama.

As the number of white settlers increased in the early nineteenth century, the Creek Indians were divided in their reaction to the encroachment. Some had become more assimilated through contact with whites, but those who held more traditional views rallied behind Tecumseh, a great Shawnee leader from the North. Just before the War of 1812, Tecumseh traveled south from the Great Lakes region to try and unite all Native Americans against white settlers. The division between the two groups of Creeks led to the Creek War of 1813-14, which was part of the War of 1812. The Creeks under Tecumseh were supported by both Spain and England and fought against the Americans. The Americans were led by General Andrew Jackson, who was allied with the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee. The Creek War ended in 1814 when the Creeks signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson, giving up over 40,000 square miles of land. Despite the fact that the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee were allied with US troops, they too were eventually forced from their land.

In 1817, the US Congress established the Alabama Territory. In 1819, Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state of the Union. By 1850, the population of Alabama included 426,000 whites and 343,000 slaves. In 1861, the Alabama Secession Convention declared Alabama a state independent from the United States, making it the fourth state to secede from the Union. During the Civil War, there were 194 land battles and 8 naval engagements on Alabama soil. Alabama was not readmitted to the Union until 1868.

Reconstruction was difficult throughout the South, but during the late nineteenth century the economy of the state slowly improved with industrialization. At Tuskegee Institute, founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Dr. George Washington Carver carried out his famous agricultural research.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the South experienced serious racial problems. Segregation kept whites and blacks separate. Martin Luther King Jr. led a boycott of buses in Montgomery. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Even with federal laws ruling segregation unconstitutional, the National Guard was called upon many times to enforce the law in Alabama. Segregation did not completely end in Alabama until the 1980s.


About half of Alabama's area is devoted to agriculture, and the state ranks third in US broiler chicken production. Cotton is the chief agricultural crop, along with peanuts and vegetables.

Manufacturing accounts for a larger share of the state's income, however. Where the Tennessee River loops across the north, hydroelectric power from the Tennessee Valley Authority has converted much agricultural land to industrial uses. Today, paper, chemicals, rubber and plastics, apparel and textiles, primary metals, and automobile manufacturing are Alabama's leading industries. Continuing as a major manufacturer of coal, iron, and steel, Birmingham is also noted for its world-renowned medical center.

Alabama has the second most extensive (after Georgia) forests in the contiguous United States, and pulp and paper products are leading products. Other major industries produce chemicals, electronics, textiles, processed foods, and automobiles. The Marshall NASA Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal, Maxwell Air Force Base, and Forts Rucker and McClellan contribute significantly to the economy.

First Inhabitants:

The first inhabitants of the area we now call Alabama were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in caves or in the open countryside around 10,000 years ago. Eventually, people began to build temporary shelters, and expanded their diet to include shellfish found in the Gulf of Mexico. They made spears (called atlatls) and used them to hunt small game. By about 4,000 years ago, these people had begun to create distinctive pottery, and then built more permanent houses, developed bows and arrows, and learned to cultivate maize and squash.

By about 1600, groups of native people can be identified as belonging to one of the historic tribes of Alabama, including the groups who speak Muskogee, and those belonging to the Mississippian chiefdoms. These groups combined to become the Creek Confederacy. In similar fashion, other groups of tribes came together to create the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes.

Between 1805 and 1806, the Choctaw tribes (in western Alabama) and the Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes (in northern Alabama) were forced to cede their land to white settlement. The Creek Indians attempted to ally themselves with other tribes from the North in resistance to white settlement, but were ultimately unsuccessful. As a result, most of the native people of Alabama were resettled in the Oklahoma territory.

Books Related To Alabama

Bird - Angela Johnson
(978-0142405444) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-10, Lexile: 710, ESL level: 3 - 4
Bird trails her stepfather to Alabama, trying to encourage him to return home; at the same time she meets some troubled children whom she attempts to help.

Fake ID - Walter Sorrells
(978-0142407622) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 650, ESL level: 4
Chass, a 16-year-old who has used many identities, seeks to find answers to her disturbing past in Alabama.

The Hanging Woods - Scott Loring Sanders
(618-881255) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3 - 4
Told from the point of view of a murderer, this brutal novel portrays a teen friendship gone out of control after one of the boys discovers a family secret.

Hard Times for Jake Smith - Aileen Kilgore Henderson
(978-1571316493) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-9, Lexile: 830, ESL level: 4
MaryJake assumes the identity of a boy after her parents throw her out of the house and she must walk very far to find a home with relatives.

Inside Out and Back Again - Lai Thanhha
(978-0061962783) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
A Vietnamese immigrant writes a series of poems reflecting her experiences in Vietnam during the war and her resettlement in Alabama.

Looking for Alaska - John Green
(978-0142402511) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 5
Prep school student Miles generally enjoys his life at school, his friends, and their tricks, but a deadly car accident changes everything.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller - Sarah Miller
(978-1442408517) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-11, Lexile: 890, ESL level: 4
This historical fiction novel describes the relationship between blind and deaf Helen Keller and the teacher who saved her, Annie Sullivan.

Singing Hands - Delia Ray
(978-0618657629) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 960, ESL level: 3 - 4 - 5
Gussie, a hearing child of deaf parents, volunteers to help with some festivities with a school for the deaf in Alabama. Gussie's punishment to assist with festivities at a school for the deaf results from her poor judgement dealing with the residents.

The Stones of Mourning Creek - Diane Les Becquets
(978-0761452386) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 3 - 4
Francie's interracial friendship with an African American girl during the 60's provokes controversy.

The Thanksgiving Visitor - Truman Capote
(978-0679838982) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-7, Lexile: 1130, ESL level: 2 - 3
A preteen boy finds comfort with a much older female cousin during a Thanksgiving celebration after he gets bullied at school.

Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues - Harriette Gillem Robinet
(978-0689838866) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 550, ESL level: 3
A grandmother and two grandchildren take part in the historic Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1956, searching for rent money and singing themed blues.

Y is for Yellowhammer: An Alabama Alphabet - Carol Crane
(978-1585361182) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about Alabama.

Famous Citizens:

Hank Aaron
Born Henry Louis Aaron in Mobile, Alabama, he first played semi-pro baseball when he was 15 years old. He played shortstop for two seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues, and then joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1952. He finished his career with the all-time home run record (755) and was tops in RBIs. He won three Gold Gloves as a right fielder, and was an All-Star in each of the 23 seasons he played.

Nat "King" Cole
Nathaniel Adams Coles (he later dropped the "s") was the son of a Baptist minister and was born in Montgomery, Alabama. His mother taught him to play the piano, and by age 12, he was playing organ and singing in his father's church. When his family moved to Chicago, he became interested in jazz music and formed the group "Royal Dukes" in 1935. After signing with Capital Records, he became the first black man to top the record charts as an independent vocalist. By the 1950s, his popularity had crossed racial boundaries, and he became the first black man to have a weekly television series--"St. Louis Blues."

Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Sayre was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the daughter of an Alabama State Supreme Court Justice. Although she was from a conservative family, she became known as a rebel, especially once she left home for the University of Alabama, where she became a stereotypical "flapper" of the 1920s. Zelda married young writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and the two became the epitome of the high living, wild, Jazz age couple. Zelda published numerous essays and short stories before her mental health deteriorated and she spent the remainder of her life in and out of institutions.

Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and was a normal child until she developed a fever at the age of 18 months. The fever made her both blind and deaf, and the hearing loss meant her speech was impaired as well. Helen became very frustrated with not being able to communicate, and her family hired Anne Sullivan to teach Helen to use sign language and read Braille. Helen went on to graduate from Radcliffe College with high honors in 1904, a time when most girls never went to college at all.

Capital: Montgomery
Entered Union: December 14, 1819
Population: 4,802,982
Area 52,419
Bird Yellowhammer
Flower Camellia
Nickname: Yellowhammer State
Governor Robert Bentley

Places to Visit in Alabama: (Click the links to learn more.)

Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum - Danville
The site commemorates the life of Jesse Owens, the black track and field athlete whose participation in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany flew in the face of Adolph Hitler's policy of white Aryan supremacy. The museum includes a replica of Owens' home, a museum and a replica of the 1936 Olympic torch.

Moundville Archaeological Park - Tuscaloosa
Eight hundred years ago, Moundville was probably the largest city in North America. This site includes the Jones Archaeological Museum, focused on the history of the Southeastern Indians, and a Nature Trail.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park - Mobile
The Park includes the USS Alabama, a battleship that fought in the Pacific during World War II, the Submarine USS Drum, also from WWII, and 23 combat aircraft.

National Voting Rights Museum & Institute - Selma
The museum was founded by survivors of America's "Bloody Sunday" massacre to honor those died to gain the right to vote for Black Americans.