Alabama Timeline and History for Kids dive into the major events that influenced the state of Alabama and much of the South.
Alabama has been considered the heart of the South and was an important location during the Civil War and World War 2 due to its port in Mobile and access to the various rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. The state gets its name from the Alabama tribe.
Despite its great history, the state of Alabama is known for its diehard College Football fans. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers tend to dominate the discussion throughout the year.
1519 - Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda of Spain explores the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Mexico, including Mobile Bay.
October 18, 1540 - The largest Native American battle in North America occurs at the village of Mabila (or Mauvila) between Hernando de Soto's Spaniards and Chief Tuscaloosa's (or Tascaluza's) warriors. The Conquistador destroys the natives and kills 2,000 of their population.
1559 -1561 - Don Tristan de Luna fails to establish a permanent Spanish colony on the Alabama-Florida coast.
There was much migration of Native American tribes during this time period. The once-thriving Mississippian cultures had withered away while other strong tribes began to emerge. At the end of the century, the Creek Confederacy had formed from the remnants of the Mississippian tribes. The Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee also formed during this time.
January 6, 1702: - The French, under the guidance of the Iberville and Bienville Le Moyne, establish a French fort at Twenty-seven Mile Bluff. The settlement would eventually move downriver to Mobile.
1717: Fort Toulouse was constructed on the Coosa River. They began to trade with the Native population, which would offset British influence.
1720: French Louisiana capital moved from Mobile west to Biloxi; then to New Orleans.
1721: 100 slaves arrive in Mobile harbor.
1724: French Code Noir extended from the French West Indies to North American colonies, institutionalizing slavery in the Mobile area.
1780: The Spanish capture Mobile during the American Revolutionary War. The Spanish also retain Florida as part of the treaty that ended the war.
1799, May 5: The Americans capture Fort St. Stephens. This would be the first time that America claimed a piece of what became Alabama.
1802: Georgia formally cedes its claims to the east.
1803 - 1811: Federal Road conceived and built connecting Milledgeville, Georgia, to Fort Stoddert, an American outpost north of Mobile.
1805 - 1806: Indian cessions create new opportunities for the Americans as large settlements are opened up.
1810: West Florida, from Pearl River to the Mississippi, annexed by the US from Spain.
1811 - 1816: Schools and Newspapers are opened up in Mobile and Huntsville.
1813 - 1814: Creek Indian War
- July 27, 1813: Battle of Burnt Creek
- August 30, 1813: Fort Mims Massacre
- December 1813: Battle of Holy Ground
- April 1813: Spain surrenders Mobile to the United States
- March 1814: Battle of Horseshoe Bend
- August 9, 1814: William Weatherford arrives at the camp of General Andrew Jackson. Jackson is impressed by his courage and says favorable things about him. The Treaty of Fort Jackson was finalized, which would cede the rest of Creek land to the United States. This would lead to more settlement and more immigration to the United States.
- September 1814: The British attack on Fort Bowyer fails, which causes them to change plans and march towards New Orleans.
February 1815: The British return to Alabama after their crushing defeat at the Battle of New Orleans. They capture Fort Bowyer only to abandon it after learning that the war is over.
1817 - March 3: The Alabama Territory was created when Congress passed the enabling act allowing the division of the Mississippi Territory and the admission of Mississippi into the union as a state.
- January 19: The first legislature of the Alabama Territory convenes at the Douglass Hotel in the territorial capital of St. Stephens. Attendance is sparse, with twelve members of the House representing seven counties and only one member of the Senate conducting the business of the new territory.
- The Alabama, the area's first steamboat, was constructed in St. Stephens.
- Cedar Creek Furnace, the state's first blast furnace and commercial pig-iron producer, was established in present-day Franklin County.
- November 21: Cahaba is designated by the territorial legislature as Alabama's state capital. The capital would eventually be moved to Huntsville, then to Tuscaloosa, and eventually to Montgomery.
- March 2: President James Monroe signs the Alabama Enabling Act.
- July - Constitutional Convention meets in Huntsville. Constitution adopted with Cahaba selected as the temporary seat of government for the new State.
- September 20-21: The first general election for the governor, members of the US Congress, legislators, court clerks, and sheriffs is held as specified by the Constitution of 1819. Held on the third Monday and following Tuesday of September, the voters elected William Wyatt Bibb as the state's first governor.
- October 25 - December 17: The General Assembly meets in Huntsville until the Cahaba Capitol is constructed.
- December 14: Alabama is admitted as the 22nd State of the Union.
December 1822: Athens Female Academy is chartered. This will become Athens State University.
1826: Tuscaloosa becomes the capital of Alabama.
- January 19: LaGrange College is chartered by the Legislature and will become the University of Northern Alabama.
- The Tuscumbia Railway Company is chartered by the General Assembly. The first two miles of track link Tuscumbia and Sheffield. This would begin to increase the population along the railway.
1831: Nat Turner's slave insurrection in Virginia.
April 13, 1831: The University of Alabama was founded. 100 students would be accepted for that first year.
- A meteor shower falls on Alabama and causes a great spectacle and much folklore. It became known as "the night the stars fell upon Alabama."
- Daniel Pratt establishes a cotton gin factory in his company town titled Prattville. The city would become a manufacturing center in the South.
- Alabama gold rush, concentrated in the east-central hill country.
- Dr. James Marion Sims, "the Father of Modern Gynecology," established a medical practice in Mt. Meigs, then in nearby Montgomery (1840), before moving on to New York in 1853 to found the renowned Woman's Hospital.
- Texas War for Independence begins
- The second Creek War begins
- Battle of Hobdy's Bridge last Indian battle in Alabama
January 28, 1846: Montgomery is selected as the capital of Alabama by the State Legislature on the 16th ballot. Montgomery won the final vote largely because of promises of Montgomery city leaders to provide $75,000 for new capital and the rise of the prominence of the Black Belt region of the state.
December 14, 1849: On the thirtieth anniversary of statehood, the capitol in Montgomery is destroyed by fire. Construction of new capital completed in 1851
1852: Alabama Insane Hospital was established at Tuscaloosa. Its first director, Dr. Peter Bryce, became renowned for his innovative and humane treatment of patients.
1853: Running on the ticket with Democratic presidential nominee Franklin Pierce, Alabama Senator William Rufus King is elected Vice President of the United States. Inaugurated March 24, 1853, in Cuba, where he had gone to recover his failing health, King died April 18, 1853, at home in Selma, never formally serving as Vice President.
1854: The Alabama Public School Act created the first state-wide education system by establishing an office of State Superintendent of Education.
- Alabama Coal Mining Company begins the first systematic underground mining in the state near Montevallo.
- East Alabama Male College is established in Auburn, Alabama. This would evolve into Auburn University.
1858, October 4: Alabama School for the Deaf, founded in Talladega; evolved into the state-supported Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
1860, November: Abraham Lincoln is elected as President. Immediately following the election, secession begins to be discussed.
- January 11: The Alabama Secession Convention passes an Ordinance of Secession, declaring Alabama a "Sovereign and Independent State." By a vote of 61-39, Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union.
- February 18: After being welcomed to Montgomery with great fanfare, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America on the portico of the Alabama capitol. Davis, a former U. S. senator from Mississippi, lived in Montgomery until April, when the Confederate government was moved from Montgomery to its new capital of Richmond, Virginia.
- February - May: Montgomery serves as C.S.A. capital until moving to Richmond, Virginia.
- March 11: The Confederate Congress, meeting in Montgomery, adopts a permanent constitution for the Confederate States of America to replace the provisional constitution adopted the previous month. The seceded states then ratified the essentially conservative document, which was based largely on the United States Constitution.
- April 12, 1861: The Confederate Army fires on Fort Sumter, thus beginning the Civil War.
Civil War Activity: 1861 - 1865: Alabama saw a lot of action within its border, especially as the Civil War progressed. There were 194 land events and 8 naval engagements that took place within the state. Here are the major events during this time period.
- January 4, 1861: A full week before Alabama secedes from the Union, Gov. A. B. Moore orders the seizure of federal military installations within the state. By the end of the next day, Alabama troops controlled Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, and the U.S. Arsenal at Mount Vernon.
- March 4, 1861: The first Confederate flag is raised over the Alabama capitol at 3:30 PM by Letita Tyler, granddaughter of former U.S. President John Tyler. The flag, which flew on a flagpole by the capitol clock, was not the Confederate battle flag but the "First National Pattern," also known as the stars and bars.
- April 1, 1862: As the first year of the Civil War comes to a close, an order by Gov. John Gill Shorter prohibiting the distillation of hard liquors in Alabama goes into effect. Shorter was willing to make some exceptions but was determined to prevent distillers from "converting food necessary to sustain our armies and people into poison to demoralize and destroy them."
- March 17, 1863: John Pelham, a 24-year-old Confederate hero from Calhoun County, is mortally wounded on the battlefield at Kelley's Ford, Virginia. He died the next day, and his body lay in state in the capitol at Richmond before being taken to Alabama for burial. Pelham's skill and daring as an artillery commander distinguished him from the outset of the Civil War and earned him the nickname "the gallant Pelham" from Robert E. Lee.
- April-May 1863: Streight's Raid in North Alabama
- May 2, 1863: Sixteen-year-old Emma Sansom becomes a Confederate heroine when she helps Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest cross Black Creek near Gadsden as he pursues Union forces led by Col. A.D. Streight.
- July 1864: Rousseau's Raid through north and east-central Alabama
- March-April 1865: Wilson's Raid through north and central Alabama
- August 1864 - April 12, 1865: Battle of Mobile Bay and the subsequent campaign, which involved action at Spanish Fort and Blakeley before the fall of the city of Mobile.
- May 4, 1865: General Richard Taylor surrenders last sizable Confederate force at Citronelle, Mobile County
- September 12, 1865: New Alabama Constitution adopted to comply with Presidential Reconstruction dictates to rejoin Union; rejected by US Congress.
- December 6, 1865: The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified, thus officially abolishing slavery.
1865-1876: Era of Reconstruction in the South.
1866: Lincoln Normal School was founded as a private institution for African-Americans at Marion; relocated to Montgomery (1887) and evolved into Alabama State University.
1868: Reconstruction Constitution ratified (February), gaining Alabama readmission to the Union and allowing black suffrage for the first time.
July 13, 1868: William H. Smith, the first Governor of the reconstructed State, was inaugurated.
July 1868: New University buildings at Tuskaloosa completed.
April 1869: New University buildings opened to students.
November 8, 1870: Robert B. Lindsey was elected Governor of Alabama.
November 26, 1870: Governor Lindsey inaugurated.
1871: Birmingham founded; evolves into the center of Southern iron and steel industry
November 16, 1875: Alabama's Constitution of 1875 is ratified. The Bourbon Democrats, or "Redeemers," having claimed to "redeem" the Alabama people from the Reconstruction rule of carpetbaggers and scalawags, wrote a new constitution to replace the one of 1868. It was a conservative document that gave the Democrats, and especially Black Belt planters, a firm grip on their recently reacquired control of state government.
1878: Violent yellow fever epidemic
- The Greenback party is in active opposition to the Democrats.
- National Baptist Convention (African-American Baptists) was organized at Montgomery.
- Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia. Having lost both sight and hearing by illness as a small child, Keller's life story and activism inspired new attitudes toward those with handicaps.
- Ten electoral votes were cast for Winfield S. Hancock and William H. English, democrat.
- Alice Furnace No. 1. in Birmingham, went into blast.
February 10, 1881: The Alabama Legislature establishes Tuskegee Institute as a "normal school for the education of colored teachers." The law stipulated that no tuition would be charged, and graduates must agree to teach for two years in Alabama schools. Booker T. Washington was chosen as the first superintendent and arrived in Alabama in June 1881. Washington's leadership would make Tuskegee one of the most famous and celebrated historic black colleges in the US.
1887 -1896: Farmers' Alliance grew out of earlier Grange and Agricultural Wheel organizations and evolved into the Populist movement, which challenged conservative Democrats for control of state politics.
1887: The following railroads opened to travel:
- Alabama Midland
- Birmingham and Atlantic
- Kansas City
- Memphis and Birmingham
- Mobile and Birmingham
1888: Savannah and Western (Central of Georgia) Railway opened to Birmingham.
1893: Financial panic spreads across the United States.
February 22, 1893: The first Auburn/Alabama football game is played in Birmingham's Lakeview Park before a crowd of 5,000 spectators. Auburn won this first match-up 32-22. The rivalry continued until 1907, when the games were stopped, with the renewal of the series not coming until 1948.
1895 - February 16: Alabama formally adopts a state flag for the first time. The legislature dictated "a crimson cross of St. Andrew upon a field of white," which was the design submitted by John W. A. Sanford, Jr., who also sponsored the bill. This flag remains Alabama's flag today.
October 12, 1896: The Alabama Girls' Industrial School opens its doors as the first state-supported industrial and technical school devoted to training girls to make a living. The school later became known as Alabama College and is now the University of Montevallo.
1898: The Spanish-American War begins and is quickly over. The result would be the end of any Spanish influence in the Western Hemisphere.
- Tallulah Bankhead, star of stage, screen, and radio in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, is born in Huntsville. The daughter of US Congressman William B. Bankhead, Tallulah was most famous for her flamboyant lifestyle, throaty voice, and stage role in The Little Foxes (1939) and her part in the film Lifeboat (1943). (There is some question of the exact birth date; this is the most generally accepted).
- Trustees of the Alabama Department of Archives and History meet in Gov. William J. Samford's office to organize the nation's first state archival agency. Charged with, among other responsibilities, "the care and custody of official archives [and] the collection of materials bearing upon the history of the State," the department was housed in the capitol until 1940. In that year, it moved across Washington Avenue to the War Memorial Building, which had been constructed for the Archives.
- New state Constitution ratified, disfranchising substantial numbers of black and white voters
1909: The Wright Brothers, Orville, and Wilbur, establish a "flying school" on land outside Montgomery six years after their first flights.
1917-1919: United States enters World War I. Alabama's 167th Regiment, a part of the 42nd "Rainbow Division," serves at the front longer than any U.S. regiment.
1925: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their first National Championship
1926: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their second National Championship
1929: After enjoying the economic prosperity of the Roaring 20s, the nation enters into the Great Depression when the stock market crashes.
1930: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins third first National Championship
March 25, 1931: Nine black youths, soon to be known as the Scottsboro Boys, are arrested in Paint Rock and jailed in Scottsboro, the Jackson County seat. Charged with raping two white women on a freight train from Chattanooga, the sheriff had to protect them from mob violence that night. Within a month, eight of the nine were sentenced to death. Based on questionable evidence, the convictions by an all-white jury generated international outrage.
1934: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their fourth National Championship
1937: State sales tax instituted to help fund education.
1941-1945: United States enters World War II. Alabama has new or expanded military bases in Montgomery, Mobile, Selma, and Anniston; munitions plants in Huntsville and Childersburg.
- Training of African-American military pilots, the "Tuskegee Airmen," is underway.
- The Alabama Crimson Tide wins fifth National Championship
1947: Georgiana's Hank Williams signs a recording contract with MGM and becomes regular on The Louisiana Hayride radio program.
July 17, 1948: The Dixiecrat Convention assembles in Birmingham, with over 6,000 delegates from across the South in attendance. They selected Strom Thurmond as their candidate for President of their States' Rights Party. In the 1948 presidential election, the Dixiecrats carried four states, including Alabama, where Democratic candidate Harry Truman's name did not even appear on the ballot.
1950 - 1953: The United States enters the Korean War.
1954: U.S. Supreme Court decides in Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, that "separate" schools cannot be "equal." This begins with desegregation.
October 31, 1954: Martin Luther King Jr, of Atlanta, is installed as minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. A little more than a year later, on the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he was named president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a role which made him a national civil rights figure.
December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, is arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a boarding white passenger as required by Montgomery city ordinance. Her action prompted the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott and earned her a place in history as "the mother of the modern-day civil rights movement. "Ms. Parks was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in August 2000.
January 30, 1956: With the Montgomery Bus Boycott about to enter its third month, segregationists bomb the home of boycott spokesman Martin Luther King Jr. The home sustained moderate damage, but no one was injured. The young minister addressed the large crowd that gathered after the blast, declaring, "I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop."
December 21, 1956: The Supreme Court ruling banning segregated seating on Montgomery's public transit vehicles goes into effect. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were among the first people to ride a fully integrated bus, ending the historic year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.
1957: The Auburn Tigers win their first National Championship
1961: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their sixth National Championship
May 20, 1961: The Freedom Riders arrive at the Greyhound bus terminal in Montgomery, where they are attacked by an angry mob. The Freedom Ride, an integrated bus trip from Washington D.C. through the Deep South, was formed to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision prohibiting segregation in bus and train terminal facilities. Before reaching Montgomery, they had already suffered violent reprisals in Anniston and Birmingham. The Freedom Ride eventually resulted in a campaign that caused the Interstate Commerce Commission to rule against segregated facilities in interstate travel.
1961-1973: America becomes involved in the Vietnam War. Originally, America's involvement was minimal, but it continued to increase over time. This was due to the foreign policy of that time, which pushed containment.
- Governor George C. Wallace was inaugurated for the first of four terms in office. Birmingham bombings of Civil Rights-related targets, including the offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the home of A.D. King (brother of Martin Luther King, Jr.), and the 16th Street Baptist Church (in which 4 children were killed), focus national attention on racial violence in the state.
- Governor Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door" at the University of Alabama protests federally forced racial integration; Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes as the first African-American students.
- The University of South Alabama was founded in Mobile.
- Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was issued to the public in a press release. Begun April 16 from the Birmingham City Jail, where King was under arrest for participation in civil rights demonstrations, the letter was addressed to eight local clergymen who had recently urged civil rights leaders to use the courts and local negotiations instead of mass demonstrations to promote their cause in Birmingham. King's letter, which soon became a classic text of the civil rights movement, rejected the clergymen's plea.
- Six hundred demonstrators made the first of three attempts to march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery to demand the removal of voting restrictions on black Americans. Attacked by state and local law enforcement officers as they crossed Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers fled back into the city. The dramatic scene was captured on camera and broadcast across the nation later that Sunday, causing a surge of support for the protestors.
- Rev. Martin Luther King leads 3,200 marchers from Selma toward Montgomery in support of civil rights for black Americans after two earlier marches had ended at the Edmund Pettus Bridge--the first in violence and the second in prayer. Four days later, outside the Alabama state capitol, King told 25,000 demonstrators that "we are on the move now . . . and no wave of racism can stop us." On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
1964: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their seventh National Championship
1965: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their eighth National Championship
1967: Lurleen Wallace inaugurated as the state's first woman governor
September 14, 1969: Talladega Speedway opens with its first running of the Talladega 500, which was won by Richard Brickhouse. Over 30 top drivers boycotted the first run, saying the track was unsafe at high speeds. The facility cost $4 million dollars to build and attracted a crowd of 65,000 to the first major race. In April 2000, a crowd of 180,000 watched Jeff Gordon win the Diehard 500.
March 17, 1970: The Alabama Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is dedicated, with Werner von Braun calling it "a graphic display of man's entering into the cosmic age." Now known as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, visitors tour the museum, which includes rockets and spacecraft, and participate in activities like Space Camp.
May 15, 1972: Gov. George C. Wallace is shot in Maryland while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president. The assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer left the Governor paralyzed from the waist down and effectively ended his chances at the nomination. He campaigned again for president in 1976, marking his fourth consecutive run for that office.
1973: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their ninth National Championship
1978: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their tenth National Championship
1979: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their eleventh National Championship
November 1982: Oscar Adams was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, becoming the first African American elected to statewide constitutional office in Alabama.
January 26, 1983: Legendary Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant dies of a heart attack. He won six national championships with Alabama and was the winningest coach in College Football.
1985: Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway opens.
1992: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their twelfth National Championship
2009: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their thirteenth National Championship
November 2, 2010: Republican candidate Dr. Robert Bentley is elected governor, and the party gains a majority in the Alabama House, Senate, and Supreme Court, wresting control from Democrats for the first time since 1874.
2010: The Auburn Tigers win their second National Championship
2011: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their fourteenth National Championship
2012: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their fifteenth National Championship
2015: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their sixteenth National Championship
2017: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their seventeenth National Championship
March 13, 2020: Alabama records its first known case of COVID-19.
2020: The Alabama Crimson Tide wins their eighteenth National Championship