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Alabama, the “Heart of Dixie”*, plays out the future against a rich historic background, from Cheaha Mountain (2,407 feet) to the East Gulf Coastal Plain and the swamps and bayous of the Mobile River Delta. From the land of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Indians, the Spanish, the French and the English pioneers to the unknown reaches of the Space Age, the Blue Gulf Waters reflect the venerable historic plantations, pine-ringed lakes, and echoes from the mountain tops amplified in mammoth caverns.
The Confederate Constitution was formulated in Alabama along with the Saturn rocket that boosted the first men to the moon in 1969.
The boll weevils came to the Black Belt in 1910 and tore into the cotton crop. And, the peanut, with a little help from scientist George Washington Carver’s “300 new uses”, became a very important crop.
The state of Alabama was named after the river. The Alabama River was named by early European explorers after the Indian tribe that lived in the territory and first appeared in 1540 spelled as “Alibamu”, “Alibamo” and even “Limamu” in the journals of the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto (c.1500-1542).
The origin of the name Alabama is thought to come from a combination of two Choctaw words; Alba and Amo. In Choctaw, “Alba” means vegetation, herbs, plants and “Amo” means gatherer or picker. “Vegetation gatherers” would be an apt description for the Alabama Indians who cleared much land for agricultural purposes.
The Heart of Dixie
Alabama has no official state nickname, but “The Heart of Dixie” is prevelant and reflects the central role that Alabama played in the history of the South. A major Cotton State, Alabama also became a leading proponent of secession in the days leading up to the Civil War. The Constitution of the Confederacy was drawn up in Montgomery and Jefferson Davis took his oath of office in Montgomery, which served as the first Confederate Capital.
“The Heart of Dixie” was a phrase developed in the 1940s and 1950s by the Alabama Chamber of Commerce. Alabama was commonly referred to as the “Cotton State” but so were many other southern states. The Chamber sought a more distinctive slogan for their state and promoted that “Alabama is geographically the Heart of Dixie, Alabama is industrially the Heart of Dixie, Alabama is, in fact, the Heart of Dixie.” In 1951, with backing from the Alabama Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill to add “Heart of Dixie” to automobile license plates. In 1955, the first license plate bearing the new slogan was produced.
Susequent standard-issue license plates have been adorned with slogans such as “Stars Fell on Alabama” and, as of 2009, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
The Yellowhammer State
This nickname originated during the Civil War. A couple of suggestions as to the origination of the nickname have been presented. One suggestion states that the name was inspired by the gray uniforms of Confederate soldiers that had a yellow tinge to them because they were “home-dyed.” Another states that a company of soldiers paraded in uniforms that were trimmed with yellow cloth. Either way, the Alabama soldiers reminded people of Yellowhammers, birds with yellow patches under their wings. The Yellowhammer is Alabama’s State Bird.
The Cotton Plantation State
Cotton production in Alabama was a major influence in the growth and culture of the state. In fact, Alabama’a farm economy was ruled by “King Cotton” at one time. When crops were poor or prices were down, Alabama farmers suffered. Conversely, when prices were up, Alabama’s farmer prospered. In the early 1900s, Alabama farmers suffered extensively due to massive cotton crop failures.
The Cotton State
For reasons given above, Alabama was called the Cotton State. While many southern states were referred to as Cotton Plantation States, Alabama was singled out as THE Cotton State because of its central location in the Cotton Belt. Cotton was Alabama’s leading crop and Alabama was considered a leading cotton producer. Alabama ranked 11th for cotton cash receipts in 2004.
The Lizard State
An abundance of lizards along Alabama streams, in early times, led to this nickname.