Alabama (state), in the east south central United States, at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains and on the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the principal states of the South and is often referred to as the Heart of Dixie. In the course of about 450 years, Spanish, French, British, and Confederate flags, as well as the Stars and Stripes, have flown over Alabama, and residents of the state have a deep-seated sense of history. Alabama entered the Union on December 14, 1819, as the 22nd state. The state capital, Montgomery, became the provisional capital of the Confederate States of America in 1861 and is popularly known as the Cradle of the Confederacy.
A few Alabamian towns and cities still maintain an air of informal dignity and charm characteristic of the Old South, supported by prosperous cotton plantations. This popular image, however, was never wholly true of Alabama and is far less so now. Although cotton is still an important crop, corn, peanuts, soybeans, and other crops, with pasture grasses and woodlands, have taken over much of the former cotton lands. Modern agricultural machinery has replaced mules and picking cotton by hand.
The most marked change in Alabama, however, has been its comparatively rapid industrialization, particularly in the second half of the 20th century. In the northwest the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) program of hydroelectric power production, begun in the 1930s, fostered the growth of giant fertilizer, munitions, and aluminum industries. Similar industrial expansion has occurred in central and southwestern areas, including around Birmingham, the state’s largest city. Alabama received its name from the Alabama River, which in turn was named after a Native American tribe that inhabited the region at the time the first Europeans arrived. The name is believed to be a combination of two Choctaw words roughly meaning vegetation (alba) and gatherer (amo), which were applied to the Alabama, or Alibamon, people. While the state proudly displays its “Heart of Dixie” nickname on vehicle license plates, Alabama is also known as the Yellowhammer State. This nickname dates from the American Civil War (1861-1865), when a company of Alabama soldiers decked their uniforms with yellow trimmings that resembled the wing patches of the yellowhammer. Encarta © "United States" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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