Alabama is a state in the southern region of the continental USA. It is considered the heart of the Southern United States and the last state to be admitted to the Union. It is famous for its role in the struggles for civil rights as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. Alabamans are renowned for their southern hospitality, friendliness, and down-home cooking. They are also widely recognizable for their sexy accent and their proud heritage.
Alabama is known as the heart of the Dixie and is one of the country’s largest producers of peanuts and cotton. It is generally an agricultural region renowned for its cattle and poultry production. It is also famous for pecan pies and other Southern food specialties.
The highest point is the Cheaha Mountain in the northern region, with an elevation of 2,405 feet. The state is bounded by the Mississippi to the western portion, while Tennessee is at its northern bounds. Georgia sits to its east, while the Florida Panhandle occupies most of its southern limits except for the southwestern part, which has access to the Gulf Coast through Mobile Bay.
Basic State Facts
The state’s capital is Montgomery. The city with the largest area and population as of the latest census in 2020 is Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile, founded in 1702 by French colonists as the capital of French Louisiana. The economic center of the state is the Greater Birmingham area which counts among its biggest industries companies centered on finance, health-related technological enterprises, and e-commerce.
Heart of Dixie and Yellowhammer State
Alabama is the only state with no official state nickname. However, it is called Heart of Dixie, probably because Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederate States. Dixie is the informal term used to refer to the southern states of the USA, especially those which seceded and formed the Confederacy.
It is also known as the Yellowhammer State because a company of its soldiers wore uniforms with yellow stripes during the Civil War. The name also refers to the yellowhammers, birds with vibrant yellow feather patches under their wings.
The Cotton State
While most southern states produced cotton and were part of the Cotton Plantation States, Alabama was singled out as The Cotton State because it stood at the heart of the area. Cotton was Alabama’s primary crop for many years before the industry dwindled. Currently, cotton only accounts for 3.5% of the state’s income.
17 Major River Systems
Alabama has 17 major river systems, which encompass 132,000 miles of waterways. The effective navigable water system is about 1,438 miles which helps sustain the freshwater biodiversity in the area. Different types of freshwater mussels, fish, gill-breathing snails, and turtles are among the endemic species in the waterways of Alabama.
Sweet Home Alabama
Rumor has it that the song ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ answered the ditties Southern Man and Alabama sung by Neil Young. Young’s songs portrayed the state as a racist and with a backward perspective. The band Lynyrd Skynyrd, with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, released the song in 1974 in their second album, Second Helping.
Famous Actors Abound
Alabama has produced several notable actors and actresses that have been recognized nationally and internationally for their body of work. Versatile actors Channing Tatum of Magic Mike and 20th Jump Street fame and Lucas Black of NCIS: New Orleans are tops on the list of actors. Actresses Courteney Cox of FRIENDS, Octavia Spencer of Hidden Figures and Instant Family, and Sonequa Martin-Green of Star Trek are among the best actresses from the state.
Home of a Soccer Icon
International soccer icon Mariel Margaret Hamm was born in Selma, Alabama. She is married to former Major League Baseball shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Hamm played forward in the US Women’s National Team that won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and scored gold medals in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and Athens Olympics in 2004. She retired with a then-record 158 goals in international competition in 276 appearances with the national team. She became a part-owner of the Los Angeles Football Club in the US Major League Soccer in 2014.
Birthplace of Revered MLB Sluggers
Alabama also sent to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame several notable personalities. Hank Aaron, one of the players to surpass Babe Ruth for career home runs, was born in Mobile. He played 23 years for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers franchises. Another notable slugger is Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid who played for the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets. He is also renowned for batting 100 or more RBIs in eight consecutive seasons. Finally, Satchel Paige’s career spanned 45 years, from 1920 to 1965, as he played in the Negro Leagues and the MLB.
Home of Naismith Hall of Famers
Naismith Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Ben Wallace were born in Alabama. Barkley, known as the Chuckster and The Round Mound of Rebound, played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and the Houston Rockets and is now one of the revered broadcasters for the NBA. Big Ben played for the Washington Bullets and Wizards, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He won Defensive Player of the Year four times and was a champion with the Pistons in 2003-2004. NBA stars Robert Horry, Andrew Toney, and cousins Chuck and Wesley Person also hail from Alabama.
Bring Your Appetite
If you’re down in Alabama, always prepare for a Southern feast of soul food staples. You better bring your appetite for collard greens, classic Southern smothered pork chops, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, tomato pie, and fried green tomatoes. The most popular desserts include homemade banana pudding, lane cake, and classic southern pecan pies. Don’t forget that Alabama is also renowned for its barbecue and white BBQ sauce.
You should also be ready to gorge on corndogs, chicken and waffles, oysters, and stone-ground baked grits as they’re staples in various food stalls and eateries around the state.
Visit the US Space and Rocket Center
A Smithsonian affiliate, the US Space and Rocket Center is one of Alabama’s top places to visit. It is full of interactive presentations and experiences, exhibits, and one of the world’s largest collections of spacecraft and memorabilia on display. It is also home to the Rocket Park, where visitors could marvel at 27 rockets and missiles on display, as well as the launchers that propel rockets into space. Don’t forget to take turns at the launch simulators, which would allow visitors to experience 4 Gs of force and weightlessness. It also houses the Project Mercury and Gemini simulators.
Revisit the Civil Rights Movements Landmarks
Take a walk down memory lane and visit the state’s different Civil Rights Movement landmarks. Visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, one of the first meeting places of the Early Civil Rights Movement activists. It was also the parish of Martin Luther King, Jr. The parsonage where Dr. King and his family lived is open to the public as the Dexter Parsonage Museum and displays their belongings for people to appreciate.
Don’t forget to visit the Rosa Parks Library and Museum and the Freedom Rides Museum as they commemorate pivotal Civil Rights Movement events that contributed to history.
Take a Detour to Barber’s Vintage Motorsports Museum
A detour to the famous Barber’s Vintage Motorsports Museum would be worthwhile if you like Americana and motorsports. Home to more than 1,400 motorcycles detailing the rich history of the machine, it boasts of the earliest and rarest motorcycle models in the continental US alongside the most modern iterations of the motorbike. Found in Birmingham, it also is home to George Barber’s extensive car collection, which includes top-notch and desirable vehicles such as the Lotus. It also has a 930-acre park with a 2.38-mile racetrack where visitors could chance upon vehicle testing, and product reveal video shoots from major producers.
Alabama’s Largest Natural Treasure
Alabama boasts of four national forests. These are the Conecuh, Talladega, Tuskegee, and the William B. Bankhead National Forests. The four forest reserves combined occupy parts of 17 counties and encompass an area of 667,000 acres. These places are also home to about 900 species of fish, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Amateur naturalists and foresters would love to explore the different trails and hiking routes to enjoy the scenery and appreciate the flora and fauna.
Weird, Fun Facts About Alabama
Alabama is the only state that counts an alcoholic beverage as its state drink. The drink in question is the famed Conecuh Ridge Whiskey, a high-quality aged moonshine produced by Conecuh Ridge Distillery Inc.
Alabama is the first state to declare Christmas as a legal holiday officially. If you’re into the slightly macabre but exciting places, you can visit Colbert County’s Coon Dog Cemetery, which is the only cemetery dedicated to coon dogs, and Mt. Nebo Baptist Church Cemetery in Clarke County, where you’ll find several tombstones sporting death masks of the person buried underneath.