Birmingham - United StatesBirmingham (/ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Alabama and the seat of Jefferson County. The city's population was 212,237 in the 2010 United States Census. As of 2010, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of about 1,128,047, approximately one-quarter of Alabama's population.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, through the merger of three pre-existing farm towns, most notably Elyton. The new city was named for Birmingham, England, the UK's second largest city and at the time a major industrial city. The Alabama city annexed smaller neighbors and developed as an industrial center, based on mining, the new iron and steel industry, and rail transport. Most of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. The city was developed as a place where cheap, non-unionized immigrant labor (primarily Irish and Italian), along with African-American labor from rural Alabama, could be employed in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast. :14
From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it nicknames such as "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Its major industries were iron and steel production. Major components of the railroad industry, rails and railroad cars, were manufactured in Birmingham: since the 1860s, the two primary hubs of railroading in the "Deep South" have been Birmingham and Atlanta. The economy diversified in the latter half of the 20th century. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have become major economic activities. Birmingham ranks as one of the largest banking centers in the United States. Also, it is among the most important business centers in the Southeast.
In higher education, Birmingham has been the location of the University of Alabama School of Medicine (formerly the Medical College of Alabama) and the University of Alabama School of Dentistry since 1947. In 1969 it gained the University of Alabama at Birmingham, one of three main campuses of the University of Alabama System. It is home to three private institutions: Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, and Miles College. The Birmingham area has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, pharmacy, law, engineering, and nursing. The city has three of the state's five law schools: Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, and Miles Law School. Birmingham is also the headquarters of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Southeastern Conference, one of the major U.S. collegiate athletic conferences.
While excluded from the best-paying industrial jobs, African-Americans joined the migration of residents from rural areas to the city, drawn by economic opportunity.
The Great Depression of the 1930s struck Birmingham particularly hard, as the sources of capital fueling the city's growth rapidly dried up at the same time farm laborers, driven off the land, made their way to the city in search of work. Hundreds poured into the city, many riding in empty boxcars. "Hobo jungles" were established in Boyles, the Twenty-fourth Street Viaduct, Green Springs Bridge, East Thomas, Pratt City, Carbon Hill and Jasper. In 1934, President Roosevelt called Birmingham the "worst-hit town in the country." New Deal programs put many city residents to work in WPA and CCC programs, and they made important contributions to the city's infrastructure and artistic legacy, including such key improvements as Vulcan's tower and Oak Mountain State Park.
The World War II demand for steel followed by a post-war building boom spurred Birmingham's rapid return to prosperity. Manufacturing diversified beyond the production of raw materials. Major civic institutions such as schools, parks and museums, also expanded in scope.
Despite the growing population and wealth of the city, Birmingham residents were markedly underrepresented in the state legislature. Although the state constitution required redistricting in accordance with changes in the decennial census, the state legislature did not undertake this at any time during the 20th century until the early 1970s, when forced by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark decision Reynolds v. Sims. Birmingham-area voters had sued to force redistricting, and the Court in its ruling cited the principle of "one man, one vote". The Court found that the geographic basis of the state senate, which gave each county one senator, gave undue influence to rural counties. Representatives of rural counties also had disproportionate power in the state House of Representatives, and had failed to provide support for infrastructure and other improvements in urban centers such as Birmingham, having little sympathy for urban populations. Prior to this time, the General Assembly ran county governments as extensions of the state through their legislative delegations.
Sand Mountain, a lower ridge, flanks the city to the north and divides Jones Valley from much more rugged land to the north. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (now CSX Transportation) enters the valley through Boyles Gap, a prominent gap in the long low ridge.
Ruffner Mountain, located due east of the heart of the city, is home to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States.
Birmingham is 147 miles (237 km) west of Atlanta, 92 miles (148 km) north of Montgomery, 147 miles (237 km) northeast of Meridian, Mississippi, 239 miles (385 km) southeast of Memphis, 192 miles (309 km) south of Nashville, and 148 miles (238 km) southwest of Chattanooga, all via Interstate highways.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 148.6 square miles (384.9 km2), of which 146.1 square miles (378.3 km2) are land and 2.5 square miles (6.6 km2), or 1.71%, are water.
Based on the 2000 census, there were 242,820 people, 98,782 households, and 59,269 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,619.7 people per square mile (625.4/km2). There were 111,927 housing units at an average density of 746.6 per square mile (288.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 62.46% Black, 35.07% White, 0.17% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.62% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. 1.55% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 98,782 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.1% were married couples living together, 24.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.
In the city, the population is spread out, with 25.0% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,898, and the median income for a family was $38,776. Males had a median income of $36,031 versus $30,367 for females. The city's per capita income was $19,962. About 22.5% of families and 27.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.9% of those under the age of 18 and 18.3% of those age 65 or over.
Birmingham's sales tax, which also applies fully to groceries, stands at 10 percent and is the highest tax rate of the nation's 100 largest cities.
Although Jefferson County's bankruptcy filing in 2011 was the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history, Birmingham remains solvent.
In 2017, Birmingham's largest public companies by market capitalization were Vulcan Materials (VMC, $17.63 billion), Regions Bank (RF, $16.17 billion), Medical Properties Trust (MPW, $4.91 billion), Energen (EGN, $4.6 billion), and HealthSouth (HLS, $4.35 billion). All were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Protective Life was bought by the Japanese company Dai-Ichi in 2015 and removed from public trading. If Alabama Power was considered independent of the Southern Company (headquartered in Atlanta), it would be the second largest company in Birmingham with more than $5.8 billion in revenue in 2015.
In 2017, Birmingham's largest private companies by annual revenue and employees were EBSCO Industries ($2.8 billion; 1,436 employees), Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC ($2.4 billion; 920 employees), Drummond Co, Inc. ($2.2 billion; 1,283 employees), O'Neal Industries ($2.1 billion; 275 employees), and McWane Inc. ($1.7 billion, 575 employees).