History Of Alabama
Alabama became a state of the United States of America on December 14, 1819. After the Indian Wars and removals of the early 19th century forced most Native Americans out of the state, white settlers arrived in large numbers.
In antebellum Alabama, wealthy planters created large cotton plantations based in the fertile central Black Belt, which depended on the labor of enslaved African Americans. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported to and sold in the state by slave traders who purchased them in the Upper South. Elsewhere in Alabama, poorer whites practiced subsistence farming. By 1860 blacks (nearly all slaves) comprised 45 percent of the state's 964,201 people.
The state wished to continue and expand slavery. Feeling pressured by the Northern states, Alabama declared its secession in January 1861 and joined the Confederate States of America in February. The ensuing American Civil War saw moderate levels of action in Alabama, and the population suffered economic losses and hardships as a result of the war. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in confederate states. The Southern capitulation in 1865 ended the Confederate state government and began a controversial and difficult decade of Reconstruction.
After the war, the vast cotton plantations resumed production. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers, motivated by profit, added to the market. Small farms, which produced general crops before the war, turned to cotton as a cash crop. As a result the market for cotton was overloaded, and prices dropped 50%.
For 75 years after the Civil War, Alabama was a poor, heavily rural state, with an economy based on cotton and sharecropping. Reconstruction's end heralded the rise to power of "Redeemer" Democrats, whites who used both legal and extralegal means (including violence and harassment) to re-establish political and social dominance over African-Americans. In 1901, Democrats passed a state Constitution that effectively disenfranchised most African-Americans (who, in 1900, comprised more than 45 percent of the state's population) as well as tens of thousands of poor whites. By 1941, 600,000 poor whites and 520,000 African Americans had been disenfranchised. In addition, despite massive population changes in the state, the rural-dominated legislature refused to redistrict itself from 1901 to the 1960s, leading to massive malapportionment. For decades, a rural minority dominated the state, and the needs of urban, middle class and industrial interests were not addressed.
African-Americans living in Alabama experienced the inequities of disenfranchisement, segregation, violence, and underfunded schools. Tens of thousands of African-Americans joined the Great Migration from 1915 to 1930 and moved to better opportunities in industrial cities, mostly in the North and Midwest. The black exodus escalated steadily in the first three decades of the 20th century; 22,100 emigrated from 1900 to 1910; 70,800 between 1910 and 1920; and 80,700 between 1920 and 1930.
Politically, the state continued as one-party Democratic into the 1980s as part of the "Solid South", and produced a number of national leaders.
The New Deal farm programs increased the price of cotton and World War II finally brought prosperity as the state developed a manufacturing and service base. Cotton faded in importance as mechanical pickers replaced scores of farm workers. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, African-Americans could legally exercise their right to vote.
With the election of Guy Hunt as Governor in 1986, the state became a Republican stronghold in Presidential elections, and leaned Republican in statewide elections. The Democratic Party still dominated local and legislative offices, but Democratic dominance had ended; in terms of organization, the parties are about evenly matched.
Read more about History Of Alabama: Indigenous Peoples, Early History, European Colonization, Early Statehood, Secession and Civil War, 1861-1865, Losses, Reconstruction, 1865-1875, Disfranchisement and Origins of New South, 1876-1914, Alabama in The New South, 1914-1945, Civil Rights Movement and Redistricting, 1945-1975
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