35 Interesting Facts About Alabama

Last updated on April 18th, 2020

Alabama is the 24th most populous and the 30th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies in the southeastern region of the United States. The state attained statehood on December 14, 1819, becoming the 22nd state to join the union. It shares its border with four states (Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi.) See the full list of the 50 states and their borders here. Alabama (nicknamed: the “Yellowhammer State”, the “Cotton State”, the “Heart of Dixie”) has 67 counties. The state’s capital is Montgomery. The abbreviation for Alabama is AL. With these facts about Alabama, let us learn more about its history, geography, people, economy and more.

1. The state was named after the Alabama River. The origin of the word Alabama is considered to be from two words “Alba and Amo”. Alba refers to vegetables, herbs; and plants while Amo refers to gatherer or picker. The combination of these words “vegetation pickers” describes the Alabama Indians who were the early settlers in the region.[1]

2. Founded by the French colonists in 1702, Mobile is the oldest city in the state.[2]

3. Did you know that the Spanish were the first Europeans to reach Alabama? This happened in 1540. But it was the French who settled first.

Alabama on the map with bordering states.
Alabama (in red) on the map with bordering states.

4. On January 11, 1961, Alabama seceded from the Union. The delegates from six states met at Montgomery and formed the Confederate States of America. Montgomery was chosen as the capital. Because of this, Montgomery is known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy.” The Confederate flag was designed and first flown in Alabama in 1861.[6,7,15]

5. Did you know that Helen Keller, born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, was the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree? Directed by Arthur Penn, a film “The Miracle Worker” was also produced in 1962 depicting the story of the remarkable tutor Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller.[32]

6. The arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery became a key event in the civil rights movement. She is called “the mother of the civil rights movement“.[13]

Alabama License Plate. Image credit GÇô Alabama Department of Revenue.
Alabama License Plate. Image credit – Alabama Department of Revenue.

7. On 15 April 1886, Montgomery, Alabama became the first U.S. city to initiate an electric streetcar system for transportation, The Capital City Street Railway, also known as the Lightning Route. The system was however retired exactly after 50 years on April 15, 1936, and was replaced by buses.[5]

Launch of Apollo 10 on Saturn V
The launch of Apollo 10 on Saturn V AS-505, May 18, 1969. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

8. Did you know that Saturn V, the rocket used by NASA to send people to the moon, was developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama? The first Saturn V was launched in 1967. The rocket was about the height of a 36 story-tall building and weighed about the weight of about 400 elephants.[3]

Flag of Alabama

Alabama Flag
9. Interestingly, due to the presence of a rocket building facility in Huntsville, it (Huntsville) earned the name “Rocket City U.S.A.”[4]

10. Mary Anderson, born in Greene County, Alabama, is credited with the invention of windshield wipers. She was granted the patent for her invention in 1903. In 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to adopt them as standard equipment.[27]

Windscreen wipers on a car.
Man is changing windscreen wipers on a car.

11. Explorer 1 was the first successful U.S. satellite. It was launched on Jupiter C rocket, which was built at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. The satellite was launched on January 31, 1958, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite orbited Earth every 114.8 minutes, making 12.54 orbits each day.[8,9]

Alabama on the map

12. Did you know that Mobile, Alabama is the birthplace of America’s original Mardi Gras? The parade originated in 1703 in port city.[10]

13. The Vulcan statue, the city symbol of Birmingham, Alabama, is the largest cast iron statue in the world. The 56-foot tall statue (from toe to spear point) depicting the Roman god Vulcan is the world’s largest iron-ore statue. It weighs 101,200 pounds. The statue was designed by the Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti.[11]

Vulcan statue - the city symbol of Birmingham, Alabama.
Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and the largest metal statue ever made in the United States. Image credit – Vulcan statue

14. The Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, honors those killed in the struggle for racial equality. The memorial also has a timeline of key events and the names of the 40 victims etched in black granite. The memorial was designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin. It is located on an open plaza accessible to visitors 24 hours a day, every day of the week.[12]

15. Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American women to serve as U.S. secretary of state was born in Birmingham. Note that Birmingham is also the state’s largest city.[14]

16. The nickname the “Yellowhammer State” originates from the fact that the Confederate troops placed yellow trimmings on their uniform during the Civil War. Yellowhammers are the birds with yellow patches under their wings.[15]

17. Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. began his career as a local pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery?[17]

18. The Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965 guaranteed the right to vote to all African Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. participated in the march. He had recently won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, which helped him draw attention to the difficulties faced by black voters, and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.[34]

19. “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a might steam.” – These are his words that are inscribed on Montogomery’s Civil Rights Memorial.[35]

20. Did you know that on the night of November 12, 1833, a spectacular occurrence of the Leonid meteor shower had been observed in Alabama? The shower was so intense that many people thought that the world is coming to an end. The “night the stars fell” is mentioned in several stories about Ray County.[24]

21. Did you know that Marie Bader, a 26-year-old from Mobile, Alabama, holds the world record for the fastest 10-kilometer run on sand? She completed the remarkable run in 55 minutes and 1 second.[16]

Wright brothers
Wright brothers – inventors and pioneers of aviation.

22. In 1910, Wright brothers opened the first-ever in the U.S. civil aviation school on an old cotton plantation on the outskirts of Montgomery, Montgomery County. However, the flight school did not remain operational for a long time due to some problems.[28]

23. Carl Lewis, the famous track-and-field athlete, who won nine Olympic gold medals during the 1980s and ’90s, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He also won one Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals, including eight gold.[18]

Cotton fields ready for harvesting.
Cotton fields ready for harvesting.

24. During the first half of the 19th century, cotton and slave labor played a central role in the state’s economy.

25. According to PEW research, Alabama is the most religious states in the US, followed by Mississippi (2nd), Tenessee (3rd), Louisiana (4th), and Arkansas (5th).[19]

26. In 2017, a record 26 million tourists visited Alabama spending an all-time high of $14.3 billion.[20]

27. Talladega Superspeedway, formerly named Alabama International Motor Speedway (AIMS), is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama. It is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66-mile-long (4.281 km).[21]

Talladega Superspeedway
Aerial view of Talladega Superspeedway in 2007. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

28. On December 14, 2019, Alabama celebrates its Bicentennial year (marks the completion of 200 years of its statehood).[22]

29. Jesse Owens is an Olympic gold medalist who was born in Oakville, Alabama. He was the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave. He won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.[30]

30. Did you know that in 1836 Alabama was the first U.S. state to declare Christmas a holiday and Oklahoma in 1907 was the last to do so?[23]

. . . continue reading on the next page.