Alabama State Capital: Montgomery

Montgomery is the capital of the state of Alabama. It is the fourth largest city in the state. The 2010 census put the city’s population at 374,536. This city was a rather sleepy southern town prior to the 1950s. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by the then young and relatively unknown local minister Martin Luther King Jr. The city would go on to be the site of further civil rights action throughout the 1960s.

Today, Montgomery is a thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan city. It serves as a logistical distribution hub for a variety of industries in the region. It also has one of the biggest art scenes of any mid-size American city.

The Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park is home to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. This museum contains collections of Southern art and prints from European artists. The city also hosts the Hank Williams Museum which has the largest collection of Hank Williams memorabilia in the world.

Montgomery is the birthplace of Zelda Sayre, who met and later married the famous American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald when he was stationed at an Army post near the city. The house where they lived is now known as the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

Why is Montgomery the Capital of Alabama?

The answer to this question involves a rather interesting and entertaining tale. Prior to 1826, the capital was bounced to a few different places. It was in Washington County, briefly in Huntsville, then Dallas County, and finally Tuscaloosa. This perpetual shifting of the capital owed to regional jealousy. When the capital was moved to a southern county, the northern counties complained. When it relocated to a northern county, the southern counties complained.

Over time, the central part of the state—known as the Black Belt owing of its rich soil—established its own power base. The cotton crop made the region increasingly wealthy. Eventually, the southern counties were willing to compromise by moving the capital to a location in the Black Belt. The rivers and train tracks in the area made it easy to travel there from anywhere in the state, and it was not too far north.

When legislators decided to move the capital again, the biggest contenders were Wetumka and Montgomery. Montgomery offered free land for the capitol building and even offered to pay for it. In 1846, the city won the bid to be the capital after 16 rounds of votes by the legislature.