"On January 26, 1871, ten men met in the Montgomery, Alabama,
banking office of Josiah Morris and organized the Elyton Land Company.
The Company's purpose was clearly stated in its by-laws: 'The city to be
built by the Elyton Land Company, near Elyton, in the County of
Jefferson, State of Alabama, shall be called Birmingham."
Carolyn Green Satterfield, Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Alabama
General Ulysses S. Grant accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865. Six years later, still on the heels of the Confederate defeat, the first city of the New South was born.
When the junction of the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad and the South & North Railroad was completed in Jefferson County, Alabama, home to rich deposits of iron ore, limestone, and coal, it was clear that a new intensely industrial economy was ready to emerge. Banker Josiah Morris paid Jefferson County landowners approximately $100,000 for a parcel of property and formed the Elyton Land Company on December 8, 1870.
The next month, Elyton's ten shareholders (Josiah Morris, Samuel Tate, Campbell Wallace, Henry M. Caldwell, Bolling Hall, James N. Gilmer, Benjamin P. Worthington, William F. Nabers, William S. Mudd, and the Virginian Colonel James R. Powell) gathered at Morris Bank in Montgomery, Alabama, and selected Powell as president of the company. After debating such city names as Mudd Town, Powellton, Milnerville, and Morriston, the group eventually settled on the name "Birmingham," after one of Britain's great industrial cities, which Powell had recently visited.
The first auction for lots in the new city was held on June 1, 1871.
Since that time, Birmingham has grown from an industrial to a service-based economy, from a simple railroad crossing rich with mineral deposits to the largest city in the state of Alabama. But the rapid growth of the "Magic City" was not without its growing pains; racial disharmony in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s led to protests and demonstrations by disenfranchised African Americans, which in turn were met with retaliatory murders, bombings, and mass imprisonments.
Today, Birmingham is probably the most progressive city in Alabama. Home to some of history's worst civil rights abuses, the city's racist past is very much an embarrassment to those who live here. But Birmingham's distinction as the "birthplace of the civil rights movement" is a source of deep pride for many people, because although many horrible bigots and racists once called Birmingham their home, so too did many of the heroes who emerged to fight discrimination and inequality not just in Alabama, but across the South and throughout the United States.
Birmingham's largest employer is the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an urban commuter college best known for its medical school and research facilities. Together, the UAB college and hospital employ approximately 9% of the Birmingham work force.
"As the morning mist rises slowly from Shades Valley...
The tall stacks of [the abandoned Sloss Furnace] emit no smoke;
gone is the hot-orange molten iron pouring into waiting sand molds,
a remembrance for four generations of Jefferson County residents.
To the west lies the city, the new city of the New South, Birmingham,
a 'Magic City' that rose from a cornfield upon a foundation of iron and
steel... Birmingham, which survived depressions and racial violence,
is today a city of concrete and steel pillars shooting heavenward from
the valley floor, its modern cubes of multi-storied mirrored glass
reflecting the sunrise back into the green hills and the red mountain."
Leah Rawls Atkins, The Valley and the Hills
As of the 2000 census, Birmingham's population is estimated at 242,820 people (8.7% lower than in 1990) and accounts for approximately 5.5% of Alabama's population as a whole. Among Birmingham residents, approximately 46% are men and 54% are women, with the median age hovering around 34 years old. Additional statistics you might find interesting:
(As of the 2000 census)
Total Population 242,820
Black or African American 73.5%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.2%
Some other race 0.6%
Two or more races 0.8%
Total Households 98,782
Married-couple families 31.1%
Female householder (no husband) 24.6%
Nonfamily households 40.0%
Average Household Size 2.37
Average Family Size 3.09
Employment & Income
Civilian labor force 110,697
Median Household Income $26,735
Per Capita Income $15,663
Families below poverty level 36.1%
Individuals below poverty level 24.7%
(According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2003)
Temperature and Precipitation
Average High Temperature 73°F
Average Low Temperature 51°F
Average Annual Precipitation 54.1 inches
Location and Elevation
Latitude 33° 31' 14"
Longitude 86° 48' 9"
Area 149.9 square miles
Population Density 1,620 per square mile
Average Elevation 636 feet
Famous People from Birmingham
Not by any means an exhaustive list, but here are a few notable Birminghamians:
Courtney Cox Arquette, actress (Friends)
John Badham, film producer (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames, E. T.)
Charles Barkley, NBA Hall of Fame
Amber Benson, actress ("Tara" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Bobby Bowden, Florida State football coach
Nell Carter, gospel singer and television star
Fannie Flagg, comedian and author (Fried Green Tomatoes)
Louise Fletcher, actress (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Vonetta Flowers, first African American to earn a gold medal in the Winter Olympics
Rebecca Gilman, playwright
Emmylou Harris, Grammy Award-winning singer
Bo Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner
Kate Jackson, actress (Charlie's Angels, Scarecrow and Mrs. King)
Eddie Kendricks, original lead singer of The Temptations
Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones
Rebecca Luker, Broadway performer (The Music Man, The Sound of Music, The Secret Garden)
Robert R. McCammon, author
Phil Mulkey, olympic decathlete
Howell Raines, New York Times Executive Editor
Condileeza Rice, National Security Director for George W. Bush
Wayne Rogers, actor (Trapper John from M*A*S*H)
Fred Shuttlesworth, civil rights activist
Bart Starr, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback
Margaret Tutwiler, United States Ambassador to Morocco
E. O. Wilson, Yale University professor and author
John Zimmerman, olympic ice skater and gold medalist
1. Leah Rawls Atkins, The Valley and the Hills: An Illustrated History of Birmingham and Jefferson County. (ISBN: 0-89781-482-7)
2. Carolyn Green Satterfield, Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Alabama. Birmingham: 1976.
3. Elizabeth H. Cobbs and Petric J. Smith, Long Time Coming. (ISBN: 1-881548-10-4)
4. World Almanac Education Group, The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2003. (ISBN: 088687-882-9)
5. http://factfinder.census.gov (28 Jan 2003)
6. http://www.birminghamchamber.com/living/quick_facts/quick_facts.htm (28 Jan 2003)