History of Montgomery
Before the first Europeans came to the area, Montgomery and the region along the banks of the Alabama River were inhabited by the Alibamu and Coushatta Native American tribes. The first Europeans to reach Montgomery were the members of the Hernando de Soto’s expedition in 1540. The expedition stayed only briefly before moving on and more than one century passed before other Europeans came to the area. The first permanent settler was a Scots trader called James McQueen, who arrived in 1617 and established close relations with the native tribes by marrying one of their women. In 1785, a trading post was established in Montgomery, which inevitably led to tensions between the newcomers and the Native Americans, especially the Creek people who came from the north.
It was only after the end of The Creek War in 1814 that larger groups of European-Americans started arriving to the area of present-day Montgomery. The settlers established two rivaling towns in the area, Alabama Town and New Philadelphia. The two merged into Montgomery in 1819. The new city grew quickly, mostly fueled by the increasing cotton trade. The state capital, which used to be in Tuscaloosa, was moved to Montgomery in 1846 and in 1961 it became the first capital of the newly formed Confederate States of America. In 1886, Montgomery got the nation’s first electric street car system. Thanks to this invention, the city was one of the first in the USA to experience the migration of population from the central residential areas to the developing suburban zones.
Montgomery was crucial for the African-American Civil Rights Movement. It was there that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the bus in 1955, which sparkled the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a campaign that eventually led to the desegregation of the public transportation. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor in Montgomery and had participated in or organized most of the campaigns and rallies associated with the Movement (such as the march to Montgomery), which eventually led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Geography and Climate :
Most of the important government institutions are located in the downtown Montgomery, on the southern bank of the Alabama River. Some of the most important landmarks in this part of the city include the Alabama State Capitol, the RSA Tower, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (where Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor) and the First White House of Confederacy.
The east side Montgomery is the fastest-growing part of the city. New shopping malls, large department stores and new residential developments are emerging there every year. This part of the city is also where the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park are located.
Montgomery has a humid subtropical climate. The winters there are generally short and mild, summers are hot and humid and the springs and autumns are warm. Sometimes an entire winter goes without snowing and the snow is usually short and light.
Population of Montgomery
The largest portion of the population in Montgomery is Black (56.6%), followed by White (37.3%), Hispanic or Latino (3.9%), Asian (2.2%), Native American (0.2%) and Pacific Islander (0.1%). Contrary to its reputation as a dangerous city, Montgomery actually has crime rates that are either below or similar to both the state and the national average.
Montgomery is the largest city in the Black Belt, a region characterized by a thin layer of rich black topsoil. This fact was crucial in the development of the economy not only in the city, but in the entire state of Alabama. Montgomery is today the processing center for cotton, soybeans and peanuts. The city’s position on the Alabama River, along with the extensive railroad network, made the city one of the largest regional distribution hubs as well. The median income in the city is $35,627.
The largest airport in the area is the Montgomery Regional Airport. Two interstate highways pass through Montgomery: I-65 and I-85. Passenger railway transportation is not particularly developed, especially since Amtrak discontinued its Floridian route.
Culture, Education and Sports
Montgomery is also famous for its music scene and for being the birthplace or the starting point of some of the nation’s most famous musicians, such as Nat King Cole, Hank Williams and Big Mama Thornton. F. Scott Fitzgerald met his wife Zelda in Montgomery (where she was born) and the house they lived in today serves as the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
The most important institution of higher education in Montgomery is the Alabama State University, a historically Black university. Other important institutions include Troy University, with the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, the Huntingdon College (used as one of the set locations for the movie “Big Fish”) and Faulkner University. Air University, which is the U.S. Air Force education center, is headquartered in the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. The base is also one of the largest employers in the city.
Montgomery does not have a professional major league sports team, but it has several successful college teams, most notably the Alabama State University Hornets.