Tags: US State Facts | Alabama History | Heart of Dixie | Southern States

Alabama History: 8 Events That Shaped the State

Image: Alabama History: 8 Events That Shaped the State
State capitol in Montgomery, Alabama; Alabama Flag as the territory Map. (Dollarphotoclub)

By    |   Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:31 PM

The history of Alabama, the "Heart of Dixie," officially began when the state joined the union in 1819, becoming the 22nd state and going on to play strong roles in the Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movement.

But the area that Alabama encompasses has a much deeper history. It was first settled by American Indians about 10,000 years ago, and English settlers came to the area in the 16th century, says History.

It was those early English settlers, part of the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1540, who first referred to an Indian tribe known as Alabama, Albama, Alebamon and by other various spellings from which the state's name would eventually be born.

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"The popular belief that Alabama signifies 'Here We Rest' stems from an etymology given wide currency in the 1850s through the writings of Alexander Beauford Meek, says History.com. "However, the first known use of this derivation appeared earlier in an unsigned article in a July 27, 1842, issue of the Jacksonville Republican. Experts in the Muskogee dialect have been unable to find any word or phrase similar to Alabama with the meaning 'Here We Rest.'"

Instead, some scholars believe the name "Alabama" can be attributed to the Choctaw language, and it would mean a compound of "a thick or mass vegetation" and "to clear, to collect, to gather up."

However the state name came about, Alabama was a force in the country. Below are five events that shaped the state's role in history:

1. After Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president, Alabama joined other southern states in seceding from the union. The Encyclopedia of Alabama calls the Civil War "the most significant event in Alabama's history."

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"Alabamians came to identify themselves not as Americans but as southerners, fiercely loyal to their Lost Cause," A term that came into popularity at the end of the war to refer to not just military defeat, but the end of the South's way of life. "All of this was purchased with the lives of 600,000 Americans," says The Encyclopedia of Alabama.

2. Montgomery, Alabama was the capital of the Confederate States of America and then President Jefferson Davis went to the city to take the oath of office and run a "new American nation founded on the perpetuation of slavery, as his vice president, Alexander Stephens, explicitly stated."

3. Alabama was pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement, with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat in Montgomery. She was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955. A decade later, the state was the center of controversy when marchers for voting rights were beaten in Selma, Montgomery, an event that became the focus of the 2014 movie, "Selma."

4. The Tuskegee Airmen were trained in Alabama and they were critical to President Harry Truman's move to desegregate the armed forces in 1948. The Airmen were the first African-American unit in the U.S. military to take to the air.

5. Americans made it to the moon thanks to the Saturn V rocket, which was designed in Huntsville, Alabama.

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The history of Alabama, the "Heart of Dixie," officially began when the state joined the union in 1819, becoming the 22nd state and going on to play strong roles in the Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movement.
Alabama History, Heart of Dixie, Southern States
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2015-31-23
Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:31 PM
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