History of Alabama

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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. 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 African Americans comprised 45% of the state's population of 964,201.

Alabama declared its secession and joined the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. The slaves were freed in 1865. All of the population suffered economic losses and hardships as a result of the American Civil War, the ensuing agricultural depression, and the financial Panic of 1873. After a period of Reconstruction, Alabama emerged still a poor, heavily rural state, with an economy even more tied to cotton despite its declining prices. Whites used legal means, violence and harassment to re-establish political and social dominance over the recently emancipated African Americans. In 1901 the Democrats passed a constitution that effectively disfranchised most African Americans, who in 1900 comprised more than 45 percent of the state's population. They also disfranchised tens of thousands of poor whites.[1][2] By 1941, 600,000 poor whites and 520,000 African Americans had been disfranchised.[1] In addition, despite massive population changes in the state, the rural-dominated legislature refused to redistrict from 1901 to the 1960s. For decades they ensured a rural minority dominated a state with increasing urban, middle class and industrial interests, which were not addressed by the legislature.

To escape the inequities of disenfranchisement, segregation and violence, and underfunded schools, tens of thousands of African Americans joined the Great Migration from 1915 to 1930[3] and moved to better opportunities in northern and midwestern industrial cities. Black exodus escalated with 22,100 African-Americans migratingd 1900 to 1910; 70,800 between 1910 and 1920; and 80,700 between 1920 and 1930.[4][5]

Politically, the state continued as one-party Democratic into the 1980s as part of the "Solid South",[6] 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 each replaced scores of farm workers. With the passage of national civil rights legislation in 1965 African Americans could all 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, while the Democratic Party still dominated local and legislative offices. Democratic dominance has ended;[7] in terms of organization, the parties are about evenly matched.[8]

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