Birmingham Alabama history stretches from its founding to the Civil Rights Movement. The city has experienced many cross-sections of American history and invited many famous figures into its borders. From its early to modern history, Birmingham, Alabama has been a popular school subject as well as a point of interest in many social studies.
Read on to learn the history of Birmingham, Alabama, including its founding and the important events that have shaped the city into a center for historical interest. Whether you’re in school working on a project or just curious about important events in history, this information can help.
Birmingham Alabama History: The City’s Founding
Birmingham began in 1815 after soldiers in Andrew Jackson’s army settled in the area after driving out the Creek tribe. They didn’t strike gold, however, as the land had infertile soil, making it an inhospitable location for investors in the cotton industry. It also had little access to transportation that could connect it to other cities and encourage trade.
In fact, Birmingham, Alabama’s history stagnated until the Civil War. After that, several railroads sprung up in the Jones Valley area of Alabama. This led to an increase in transportation and trade and spurred the discovery of a lucrative mineral mining opportunity. Thus, unlike the history of larger American cities, Birmingham didn’t begin to bustle until nearly 60 years after it was founded.
Birmingham’s Economic Boom
The railroads led to investors coming in to promote their industries, including James Powell, who began organizing a land company and selling plots in Birmingham. Before long, coal companies came in to offer industry support and economic coverage during a cholera epidemic. Even among recessions, coal, iron, and railroad investors bought land in Alabama and led to increasing investment.
The railroads transformed Birmingham from a slummy frontier town with muddy streets and saloons into a booming industrial site with railroad unions and steel mills. This put the city on the map and defined its position in expanding the country’s major industrial properties.
Black History in Birmingham, Alabama
From the beginning, Birmingham intersected with black history. As soon as investors arrived, slaves and sharecroppers could be seen working in the fields and factories across the county. Civil rights did not exist in Birmingham. Commonly, black homes smoldered after being bombed by racially-motivated arsonists.
In 1961, the Freedom Riders, an integrated tour group, became the victims of a mob assault. This assault spurred the Civil Rights Movement into the deeply segregated Birmingham consciousness. Four young girls died in Birmingham when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed by racially-motivated protestors. However, this event served as an inciting incident for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Despite its horrific history, Birmingham remains a site of great change, visited by many prominent activists who spurred such change within the city’s borders and set an example for the rest of the nation.
Birmingham, Alabama history is tumultuous, to say the least. Its early economic history mirrors many similar cities in early America. However, its heavily segregated industries led to great change in the 20th century. It was change that affected the nation. Perhaps no city in the country feels more central to the pain and healing of inequality in the last two centuries of American history.