42 SCHOOLS in ALABAMA
Alabama was one of the first frontier regions of the US, explored by the Spanish and settled by the French in the area they called Mobile. Won by the British in the Seven Years’ War, the area that would become Alabama became a US territory in the years after the American Revolution, but there were few settlers until the Indian Removal Act and new technology created room for King Cotton. In the first few decades of the 1800s, Alabama’s population exploded, growing exponentially from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, including large numbers of slaves brought to work the cotton plantations. By the Civil War, the population was nearly a million, with half those being slaves; though Alabama contributed large numbers of soldiers to the Confederate army, the state itself had little fighting and continued its dependence on a cotton and agriculture-based economy until well into the 20th century. For most of the century after the Civil War, Alabama was hampered by poor education, restrictive Jim Crow laws, and an outmoded economy.
Alabama began a slow turnaround following the Civil Rights Movement and economic progress began in earnest in the 1960s, including the arrival of the Marshall Space Flight Center, the largest NASA complex in the US. That set off significant growth in research, development, and manufacturing for the aerospace industry in Alabama, signalling an important transition from the agricultural base. That foundation has paid off in the 21st century, as Alabama has shown important signs of economic gain; while farms have decreased (the Cotton State is now at the bottom of the top ten states for cotton production), industry has improved, including growth in aerospace, automotive, and electronics manufacturing, building on the platform set by Huntsville.
Alabama’s higher education system has responded to, and often led, changes in Alabama’s workforce and culture, especially in the 21st century, as increased professionalization and industrialization has created a need for more college and graduate education. With Auburn University, Tuskegee University, and Alabama A&M University, Alabama has a trio of top-notch STEM and professional educators, including (in Tuskegee) one of the nation’s most crucial graduate educators for African-American and other minority students. Alabama is also home to a number of nationally-respected liberal arts colleges, including Samford University, Huntingdon College, and the University of Montevallo, institutions dedicated to providing the best undergraduate education for Alabama’s prospective education, business, and political leaders. Alabama has had its ups and downs, but with a secure higher education system, the state is on the rise.