Birmingham, Alabama

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Birmingham, Alabama
City of Birmingham
Birmingham AL Montage.jpg
From top left: Downtown from Red Mountain; Torii in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Alabama Theatre; Birmingham Museum of Art; City Hall; Downtown Financial Center
Seal of Birmingham, Alabama.svg
"The Magic City", "Pittsburgh of the South", "Bham"
Jefferson County and Shelby County Alabama Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Birmingham Highlighted 0107000.svg
Location within Jefferson County and Shelby County
USA Alabama location map.svg
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Location within Alabama
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 33°39′12″N86°48′32″W / 33.65333°N 86.80889°W / 33.65333; -86.80889 Coordinates: 33°39′12″N86°48′32″W / 33.65333°N 86.80889°W / 33.65333; -86.80889
Country United States
State Alabama
Counties Jefferson, Shelby
IncorporatedDecember 19, 1871
Named for Birmingham, England, UK
  Type Mayor–council
   Mayor Randall Woodfin (D)
   Council Birmingham City Council
   City 148.61 sq mi (384.91 km2)
  Land146.07 sq mi (378.32 km2)
  Water2.55 sq mi (6.59 km2)
644 ft (196 m)
 (2010) [2]
   City 212,237
(2018) [3]
  RankUS: 107th
AL: 1st
  Density1,436.86/sq mi (554.77/km2)
749,495 (US: 55th)
1,151,801 (US: 49th)
Demonym(s) Birminghamian
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
Area code(s) 205
Interstates I-20, I-22, I-59, I-65, and I-459
Airports Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport
FIPS code 01-07000
GNIS feature ID015817
Website Official website

Birmingham ( /ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2018 population of 209,880, it is the most populous city in Alabama. [4] Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2018, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,151,801, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Alabama A state in the United States

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.


Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, through the merger of three 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 center. 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. [5] 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 work in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast. [6] :14

American Civil War Internal war in the U.S. over slavery

The American Civil War, one of the most studied and written about episodes in U.S. history, was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights in order to uphold slavery.

Reconstruction era Era of military occupation in the Southern United States after the American Civil War (1865–1877)

The Reconstruction era was the period in American history which lasted from 1863 to 1877. It was a significant chapter in the history of American civil rights.

Elyton , Alabama, was the county seat of Jefferson County, Alabama from 1821 to 1873. It was the county's second seat, after Carrollsville (1819-1821). In 1873 the courthouse was moved to Birmingham. The area that was Elyton is currently bordered by 7th Street Southwest and Cotton Avenue in the West End of Birmingham.

Panoramic map of Birmingham's business section from 1903 Birmingham Alabama map 1903.jpg
Panoramic map of Birmingham's business section from 1903

From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its rapid growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it the nicknames "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 U.S. Also, it is among the most important business centers in the Southeast.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The Southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Western United States, with the Midwestern United States and Northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Pittsburgh City in western Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States, and is the county seat of Allegheny County. A population of about 301,048 residents live within the city limits, making it the 66th-largest city in the U.S. The metropolitan population of 2,324,743 is the largest in both the Ohio Valley and Appalachia, the second-largest in Pennsylvania, and the 27th-largest in the U.S.

Deep South cultural and geographic subregion in the Southern United States

The Deep South is a cultural and geographic subregion in the Southern United States. Historically, it was differentiated as those states most dependent on plantations and slave societies during the pre-Civil War period. The Deep South is commonly referred to as the Cotton States, given that the production of cotton was a primary cash crop.

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 also home to three private institutions: Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, and Miles College. The Birmingham area has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, occupational therapy, 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.

Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education. It represents levels 6, 7 and 8 of the 2011 version of the International Standard Classification of Education structure. Tertiary education at non-degree level is sometimes referred to as further education or continuing education as distinct from higher education.

University of Alabama School of Medicine medical school in Birmingham, AL

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine is a public medical school located in Birmingham, Alabama, United States with branch campuses in Huntsville, Montgomery, and at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences in Tuscaloosa. Residency programs are also located in Selma, Huntsville and Montgomery.

University of Alabama at Birmingham public university in Birmingham, Alabama

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a public R1 research university in Birmingham, Alabama. Developed from an academic extension center established in 1936, the institution became a four-year campus in 1966 and a fully autonomous university in the University of Alabama System in 1969.


Founding and early growth

L&N rail yard at Birmingham, ca. 1900 Birmingham AL.png
L&N rail yard at Birmingham, ca. 1900

Birmingham was founded on June 1, 1871, by the Elyton Land Company, whose investors included cotton planters, bankers and railroad entrepreneurs. It sold lots near the planned crossing of the Alabama & Chattanooga and South & North Alabama railroads, including land that was part of the Benjamin P. Worthington plantation. The first business at that crossroads was a trading post and country store operated by Marre and Allen. The site of the railroad crossing was notable for its proximity to nearby deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone  – the three main raw materials used in making steel.

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolomite, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In old USGS publications, dolomite was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolomites or magnesium-rich limestones.

Child labor at Avondale Mills in Birmingham in 1910; photo by Lewis Hine OUR BABY DOFFER.jpg
Child labor at Avondale Mills in Birmingham in 1910; photo by Lewis Hine

Birmingham is the only place where significant amounts of all three minerals can be found in close proximity. [7] From the start the new city was planned as a center of industry. To emphasize this point, the city's founders named it in honor of Birmingham, England, one of the world's premier industrial cities. The growth of the planned city was impeded by an outbreak of cholera and a Wall Street crash in 1873. Soon afterward, however, it began to develop at an explosive rate.

Cholera Bacterial infection of the small intestine

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms may range from none, to mild, to severe. The classic symptom is large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This may result in sunken eyes, cold skin, decreased skin elasticity, and wrinkling of the hands and feet. Dehydration can cause the skin to turn bluish. Symptoms start two hours to five days after exposure.

Panic of 1873 Financial crisis

The Panic of 1873 was a financial crisis that triggered an economic depression in Europe and North America that lasted from 1873 until 1877, and even longer in France and Britain. In Britain, for example, it started two decades of stagnation known as the "Long Depression" that weakened the country's economic leadership. In the United States the Panic was known as the "Great Depression" until the events of the early 1930s set a new standard.

The Tennessee Coal and Iron Company (TCI) became the leading steel producer in the South by 1892. In 1907 U.S. Steel purchased it and became the most important political and economic force in Birmingham. It resisted new industry, however, to keep wage rates down. [6] :119

In 1911, the town of Elyton and several other surrounding towns were absorbed into Birmingham. From the early 20th century, the city grew so rapidly it earned the sobriquet "The Magic City". The downtown was redeveloped from a low-rise commercial and residential district into a busy grid of neoclassical mid- and high-rise buildings crisscrossed by streetcar lines. Between 1902 and 1912, four large office buildings were constructed at the intersection of 20th Street, the central north-south spine of the city, and 1st Avenue North, which connected the warehouses and industrial facilities along the east-west railroad corridor. This early group of skyscrapers was nicknamed the "Heaviest Corner on Earth".

Birmingham was hit by the 1916 Irondale earthquake (ML 5.1, intensity VII (Very strong)). A few buildings in the area were slightly damaged. The earthquake was felt as far as Atlanta and neighboring states.

Birmingham Alabama c1916 LOC 3c26173u.jpg
Birmingham, 1916

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.[ citation needed ]

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. [8] In 1934, President Roosevelt called Birmingham the "worst-hit town in the country." [8] 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. [9]

Despite the city's growing population and wealth, 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 act until the 1970s when the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Reynolds v. Sims forced it to do so. 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 Alabama Legislature (known as the General Assembly until 1901) ran county governments as extensions of the state through their legislative delegations.

Birmingham civil rights movement

In the 1950s and 1960s, Birmingham gained national and international attention as a center of activity during the Civil Rights Movement. Based on their members working in mining and industry, in the 1950s independent Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapters had ready access to dynamite and other bomb materials. Whites unhappy with social changes in the 1950s committed racially motivated bombings of the houses of black families who moved into new neighborhoods or who were politically active, earning Birmingham the nickname "Bombingham".

Locally, the civil rights movement's activists were led by Fred Shuttlesworth, a fiery preacher who became legendary for his fearlessness in the face of such violence. [10] But he found city officials resistant to making changes for integration or lessening of Jim Crow.

16th Street Baptist Church, now a National Historic Landmark 16th Street Baptist Church.JPG
16th Street Baptist Church, now a National Historic Landmark

A watershed in the civil rights movement occurred in 1963 when Shuttlesworth requested Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Shuttlesworth had co-founded, come to Birmingham to help end public segregation. [11]

Together they launched "Project C" (for "Confrontation"), a massive non-violent demonstration against the Jim Crow system. While imprisoned in April 1963 for having taken part in a nonviolent protest, Dr. King wrote the now famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail", a defining treatise in his cause against segregation. During April and May, daily sit-ins and mass marches organized and led by movement leader James Bevel were met with police repression, tear gas, attack dogs, fire hoses, and arrests. More than 3,000 people were arrested during these protests, many of them children. King and Bevel filled the jails with students to keep the demonstrations going.

By September the SCLC and city were negotiating to end an economic boycott and desegregate stores and other facilities. On a Sunday in September 1963, a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four black girls. [12] The activists' protests and national outrage about the police and KKK violence contributed to the ultimate desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham and also passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [13]

In 1998, the Birmingham Pledge, written by local attorney James Rotch, was introduced at the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast. As a grassroots community commitment to combating racism and prejudice, it has since been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries. [14]

Recent history

In the 1970s, urban renewal efforts focused around the development of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which has become a major medical and research center. In 1971 Birmingham celebrated its centennial with a round of public-works improvements, including the upgrading of Vulcan Park and the construction of a major downtown convention center containing a 2,500-seat symphony hall, theater, 19,000-seat arena, and exhibition halls. Birmingham's banking institutions enjoyed considerable growth as well, and new skyscrapers were constructed in the city center for the first time since the 1920s. These projects helped the city's economy to diversify, but did not prevent the exodus of many of the city's residents to independent suburbs. Suburbanization was a national trend. In 1979 Birmingham elected Dr. Richard Arrington Jr. as its first African-American mayor.

Birmingham skyline at night from atop the City Federal Building, July 1, 2015 Birmingham Skyline.jpeg
Birmingham skyline at night from atop the City Federal Building, July 1, 2015

The population inside Birmingham's city limits has fallen over the past few decades, due in large part to "white flight" from the city to the surrounding suburbs and loss of jobs following industrial and railroad restructuring. The city's formerly most populous ethnic group, non-Hispanic white, [15] has declined from 57.4 percent in 1970 to 21.1 percent in 2010. [16] From 340,887 in 1960, the city's population had decreased to 242,820 in 2000, a loss of about 29 percent. By 2010, Birmingham's population had reached 212,237, its lowest since the mid-1920s, but the city has since stopped losing residents. [17] That same period saw a corresponding rise in the populations of the suburban communities of Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Alabaster, and Gardendale, none of which was incorporated as a municipality until after 1950.

New resources have been dedicated in reconstructing the downtown area into a 24-hour mixed-use district. The market for downtown lofts and condominiums has increased, while restaurant, retail and cultural options have expanded. In 2006, the visitors bureau selected "the diverse city" as a new tag line for the city. [18] In 2011, the Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham was named as a 2011 America's Great Place by the American Planning Association. [19] In January 2015, the International World Game Executive Committee selected Birmingham as the host for the 2021 World Games. [20]

Recent developments have attracted national media. The New York Times has praised the city's food scene since 2006. [21] [22] [23] The Washington Post has also featured stories about the city's cuisine and neighborhoods. [24] Referring to the city's civil rights history, Alice Short of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Anyone who cares about U.S. history should plan a trip here." [25]


Birmingham occupies Jones Valley, flanked by long parallel mountain ridges (tailing ends of the Appalachian Mountains) running from northeast to southwest. The valley is drained by small creeks (Village Creek, Valley Creek) which flow into the Black Warrior River. The valley was bisected by the principal railroad corridor, along which most of the early manufacturing operations began.

Red Mountain lies immediately south of downtown. Many of Birmingham's television and radio broadcast towers are lined up along this prominent ridge. The "Over the Mountain" area, including Shades Valley, Shades Mountain and beyond, was largely shielded from the industrial smoke and rough streets of the industrial city. This is the setting for Birmingham's more affluent suburbs of Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, and Hoover. South of Shades Valley is the Cahaba River basin, one of the most diverse river ecosystems in the United States.

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, due east of the heart of the city, is home to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, one of the largest urban nature reserves in the U.S.

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, [26] all via Interstate highways.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has an 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. [2]


Birmingham has numerous suburbs. As with many major areas, most of the metropolitan population lives outside the city boundaries. In 2007, the metropolitan area was made up of 7 counties, 102 cities, and 21 school districts. [27] Since then Alabaster and Pelham have broken away from the Shelby County School System to form their own school systems. Some analysts argue that the region suffers from having so many suburbs; companies play jurisdictions against each other to gain tax and other financial incentives for relocation, resulting in no net gain in the area's economy. [28]

Suburbs in the Birmingham–Hoover metropolitan area by order of population (2016 estimates):


Tallest buildings
Wells Fargo Tower 34454 feet (138 metres)
Regions-Harbert Plaza 32437 feet (133 metres)
AT&T City Center 30390 feet (120 metres)
Regions Center 30390 feet (120 metres)
City Federal Building 27325 feet (99 metres)
Alabama Power Headquarters Building 18322 feet (98 metres)
Thomas Jefferson Tower 20287 feet (87 metres)
John Hand Building 20284 feet (87 metres)
Daniel Building 20283 feet (86 metres)
Birmingham skyline, 2007


Birmingham has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. January has a daily mean temperature of 43.8 °F (6.6 °C), and there is an average of 47 days annually with a low at or below freezing, and 1.4 where the high does not surpass freezing. [29] July has a daily mean temperature of 81.1 °F (27.3 °C); highs reach or exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on 55 days per year and 100 °F (38 °C) on 2 or 3. [29] Precipitation is relatively well-distributed throughout the year, with March the wettest month on average, and October the driest. Snow occasionally falls during winter, but many winters pass with no snow or only a trace. However, 10.3 inches (26.2 cm) fell on March 13, 1993, during the 1993 Storm of the Century, which established the highest daily snowfall, one-storm, and winter season total on record. Average snowfall over the winter season, based on the 1981–2010 period, is 1.6 in (4.1 cm), but, for the same period, median monthly snowfall for each month was zero. [29]

The spring and fall months are pleasant but variable as cold fronts frequently bring strong to severe thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes to the region. The fall season (primarily October) features less rainfall and fewer storms, as well as lower humidity than the spring, but November and early December represent a secondary severe weather season. Birmingham is in the heart of a Tornado Alley known as the Dixie Alley due to the high frequency of tornadoes in Central Alabama. The greater Birmingham area has been hit by two F5 tornadoes; one in Birmingham's northern suburbs in 1977, and second in the western suburbs in 1998. The area was hit by an EF4 tornado which was part of the 2011 Super Outbreak. In late summer and fall months, Birmingham experiences occasional tropical storms and hurricanes due to its proximity to the Central Gulf Coast.

The record high temperature is 107 °F (42 °C), set on July 29, 1930, [30] and the record low is −10 °F (−23 °C), set on February 13, 1899. [31]


The Birmingham area is not prone to frequent earthquakes; its historical activity level is 59% less than the US average. [36] Earthquakes are generally minor and the Birmingham area can feel an earthquake from the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone. The magnitude 5.1 Irondale earthquake in 1916 caused damage in the Birmingham area and was felt in the neighboring states and as far as the Carolinas. [37] The 2003 Alabama earthquake centered in northeastern Alabama (magnitude 4.6–4.9) was also felt in the rest of Alabama, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.


Historical population
1880 3,086
1890 26,178748.3%
1900 38,41546.7%
1910 132,685245.4%
1920 178,80634.8%
1930 259,67845.2%
1940 267,5833.0%
1950 326,03721.8%
1960 340,8874.6%
1970 300,910−11.7%
1980 284,413−5.5%
1990 265,968−6.5%
2000 242,840−8.7%
2010 212,237−12.6%
Est. 2018209,880 [3] −1.1%
U.S. Decennial Census [38]
2018 Estimate [39]

Census data


Based on the 2000 census, there were 242,820 people, 98,782 households, and 59,269 families residing in the city. [40] 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, 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.

The city's 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 city's median household income was $31,898, and the median family income 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. [41]


According to the 2010 census: [15]

Map of racial distribution in Birmingham, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow) Race and ethnicity 2010- Birmingham (5559862755).png
Map of racial distribution in Birmingham, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)


St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Birmingham St Paul 05.jpg
St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Birmingham

Birmingham has hundreds of Christian churches, five synagogues, three mosques, and two Hindu temples. The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies published data showing that in 2010, among metro areas with greater than one million population, Birmingham had the second highest ratio of Christians, and the greatest ratio of Protestant adherents, in the U.S. [42] [43]

The Southern Baptist Convention has 673 congregations and 336,000 members in the Birmingham metro area. The United Methodists have 196 congregations and 66,759 members. The headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in America was in Birmingham until the early 1980s; the PCA has more than 30 congregations and almost 15,000 members in the Birmingham metro area, with megachurches such as Briarwood Presbyterian Church. The National Baptist Convention has 126 congregations and 69,800 members. [44]

The city is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, covering 39 counties and comprising 75 parishes and missions as well as seven Catholic high schools and nineteen elementary schools. [45] There are also two Eastern Catholic parishes in Birmingham. The Catholic television network EWTN is headquartered in metropolitan Birmingham. There are three Eastern Orthodox churches in the metro area, representing the Greek, Russian, and American Orthodox churches. The mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Cathedral Church of the Advent is in downtown Birmingham. There is also a Unitarian Universalist church.


With a crime rate of 85 per one thousand residents, Birmingham has one of the highest crime rates in the United States, ranked 20th, according to a study in 2017 for cities with a population over 25,000. Neighboring Bessemer also ranks high at seventh. [46] Violent crime in Birmingham increased by 10% from 2014 to 2016. As the third most violent city in the country, the city's murder, robbery, and aggravated assault rates are each among the top five of all major U.S. cities. As in many high crime areas, poverty is relatively common in Birmingham. Citywide, 31% of residents live in poverty, a higher poverty rate than all but a dozen other large U.S. cities. [47]

Birmingham was ranked 425th in crime rate in the U.S. for 2012 by CQ Press. [48] The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was ranked as having the 35th highest crime rate in the U.S., out of 347 MSAs ranked in 2011 by CQ Press. [49] The Birmingham metro area crime rate is in line with other southern MSAs such as Jacksonville and Charlotte. [50] U.S. News & World Report ranked Birmingham as the third most dangerous city in the nation for 2011 (only Atlanta and St. Louis were ranked higher). [51] The A&E Network series The First 48 has filmed episodes with some of the city's homicide detectives.[ citation needed ]


Though the steel industry no longer holds the same prominence, steel production and processing continue to play a key role in the local economy. Steel products manufacturers American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO) and McWane are based in the city. Several of the nation's largest steelmakers, including CMC Steel, U.S. Steel, and Nucor, also have a major presence in Birmingham. In recent years, local steel companies have announced about $100 million worth of investment in expansions and new plants in and around the city. Vulcan Materials Company, a major provider of crushed stone, sand, and gravel used in construction, is also based in Birmingham. [52]

In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham's economy was transformed by investments in biotechnology and medical research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its adjacent hospital. The UAB Hospital is a Level I trauma center providing health care and breakthrough medical research. UAB is now the area's largest employer and the second largest in Alabama, with a workforce of about 23,000 as of 2016. [53] Health care services providers Encompass Health (formerly HealthSouth), Surgical Care Affiliates and Diagnostic Health Corporation are also headquartered in the city. Caremark Rx was founded in the city.

Birmingham is a leading banking center, serving as home to two major banks: Regions Financial Corporation and BBVA Compass. SouthTrust, another large bank headquartered in Birmingham, was acquired by Wachovia in 2004. The city still has major operations as one of the regional headquarters of Wachovia, which itself is now part of Wells Fargo. In November 2006, Regions Financial merged with AmSouth Bancorporation, which was also headquartered in Birmingham. They formed the eighth largest U.S. bank by total assets. Nearly a dozen smaller banks are also headquartered in the Magic City, such as Cadence Bank. As of 2009, the finance and banking sector in Birmingham employed 1,870 financial managers, 1,530 loan officers, 680 securities commodities and financial services sales agents, 380 financial analysts, 310 financial examiners, 220 credit analysts, and 130 loan counselors. [54] While Birmingham has seen major change-ups with its banking industry, it was still the ninth largest banking hub in the United States by the amount of locally headquartered deposits in 2012. [55] A 2014 study found the city had moved down a spot to the tenth largest banking center. [56]

AT&T City Center in downtown AT&T building, Birmingham, AL.jpg
AT&T City Center in downtown

The telephone company that is now owned by AT&T, which was formerly BellSouth and before that South Central Bell, which had its headquarters in Birmingham, has a major nexus in Birmingham, supported by a skyscraper downtown as well as several large operational center buildings and a data center.

The insurance companies Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Protective Life, Infinity Property & Casualty, ProAssurance, and Liberty National have their headquarters in Birmingham, and these employ a large number of people in Greater Birmingham. Birmingham also boasts a growing employee presence from truck insurance specialist Reliance Partners.

Birmingham is also a powerhouse of construction and engineering companies, including BE&K, Brasfield & Gorrie, Walter Schoel Engineering Co. and B.L. Harbert International, which routinely are included in the Engineering News-Record lists of top design and international construction firms. [57] [58]

Two of the largest soft-drink bottlers in the United States, each with more than $500 million in sales per year, are in Birmingham. The Buffalo Rock Company, founded in 1901, has grown from making ginger ale to be a major bottler for the Pepsi Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, founded in 1902, is the second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States. [59]

Birmingham has seen a noticeable decrease in the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city, due to mergers, moves, and buy-outs. In 2000, there were ten Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city, while in 2014 there was only one, Regions Bank. Birmingham also used to be home to more than 30 publicly traded companies, but in 2011 there were only 15. [60] The number has increased since then, but not significantly. Some companies, like Zoës Kitchen, were founded and operated in Birmingham, but moved their headquarters before going public, [61] even after saying they would stay in their home state. [62] Birmingham has been on a rebound, though, with the growth of companies like HealthSouth, Infinity Property and Casualty Corp., [63] and Southern Company.

The Birmingham metropolitan area has consistently been rated as one of America's best places to work and earn a living based on the area's competitive salary rates and relatively low living expenses. One study published in 2006 by determined Birmingham was second in the nation for building personal net worth, based on local salary rates, living expenses and unemployment rates. [64]

A 2006 study by website [65] calculated Birmingham's "combined personal income" (the sum of all money earned by all residents of an area in a year) at $48.1 billion. [66]

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. [67] [68]

Although Jefferson County's bankruptcy filing in 2011 was the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history, Birmingham remains solvent. [69]

In 2019, Birmingham's largest public companies by market capitalization were Regions Bank (RF, $20.54 billion), Vulcan Materials (VMC, $17.23 billion), Energen (EGN, $6.8 billion) (Engergen was acquired by Diamondback Energy Inc in 2018), Encompass Health Group (formally HealthSouth; EHC, $6.35 billion), and Medical Properties Trust (MPW, $5.11 billion). [70] 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. [71]

In 2019, Birmingham's largest private companies by annual revenue and employees were Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC ($3.31 billion; 1,210 employees), Coca-Cola Bottling Company United ($2.81 billion, 860 employees), EBSCO Industries ($2.8 billion; 1,556 employees), and McWane Inc. ($2 billion, 570 employees). [72] Drummond Co, Inc. (2017 revenue - $2.2 billion; 1,283 employees), O'Neal Industries (2017 revenue - $2.1 billion; 275 employees), . [73]

A Birmingham start-up, Shipt was acquired by the Target Corporation for $550 million. [74] Shipt is keeping its headquarters in Birmingham, though, at the John Hand Building. Shipt announced that it would add additional offices in the Wells Fargo Tower, which will be re-branded as the Shipt Tower in 2020. Shipt will then have its logo on two prominent high rises in downtown Birmingham.

Arts and culture

Alabama Theatre Alabama Theatre.jpg
Alabama Theatre

Birmingham has a distinctly Deep South culture and a dynamic Upper South influence that has molded its culture from its beginning. This is due to the city's location as the gateway opening to and from both regions and their influences.[ citation needed ] Historically, many African Americans from the Black Belt and Whites from across the state settled this area in large numbers in the 20th century pursuing jobs in the steel industry, contributing their music and foods to its Southern nature. [75] In the 1970s the city began to diversify spurred on by the growth of the University of Alabama at Birmingham which attracted many students from out of state as well as international students. During this period Birmingham solidified itself as the most diverse city in Alabama and the hub of a growing multi-cultural metropolitan area. This blending of southern cultures with international flavors is most evident in the city's cosmopolitan Southside neighborhood. As the city's hub for bohemian culture and a long frequented nightlife area it is among the most popular and fastest growing in the city. The presence of UAB helps make it the city's most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood.[ citation needed ]

Birmingham is the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama, with numerous art galleries in the area including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the Southeast. Downtown Birmingham is currently experiencing a cultural and economic rejuvenation, with several new independent shops and restaurants opening in the area. Birmingham is home to the state's major ballet, opera and symphony orchestra companies such as the Alabama Ballet, [76] Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Ballet, Birmingham Concert Chorale, and Opera Birmingham.

Other entertainment venues in the area include:

Birmingham's nightlife is primarily clustered around the Five Points South, Lakeview, and Avondale districts. In addition, a $55-million "Uptown" entertainment district is adjacent to the BJCC featuring a number of restaurants and a Westin hotel.

The Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham [86] maintains, [87] "a one-stop source for finding out what's going on where around" Birmingham.


Birmingham is home to several museums. The largest is the Birmingham Museum of Art, which is also the largest municipal art museum in the Southeast. The area's history museums include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which houses a detailed and emotionally charged narrative exhibit putting Birmingham's history into the context of the Civil Rights Movement. It is on Kelly Ingram Park next to the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Other history museums include the Southern Museum of Flight, Bessemer Hall of History [88] Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Alabama Museum of Health Sciences, and Arlington Home.

The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is housed in the historic Carver Theatre and offers exhibits about the numerous notable jazz musicians from the state of Alabama.

The McWane Science Center is a regional science museum with hands-on science exhibits, temporary exhibitions, and an IMAX dome theater. The center also houses a major collection of fossil specimens for use by researchers. Other unique museums include the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which contains the largest collection of motorcycles in the world; the Iron & Steel Museum of Alabama at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, near McCalla; and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


Sloss Furnaces Sloss Furnaces Birmingham.jpg
Sloss Furnaces

Birmingham is home to numerous cultural festivals showcasing music, films, and regional heritage. The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival brings filmmakers from all over the world to Birmingham to have their films viewed and judged. This festival usually is scheduled in late August at eight venues around downtown. Screenings are concentrated at the Alabama Theatre. The Sloss Furnaces has an annual Halloween haunted attraction called "Sloss Fright Furnace". During the summer, Sloss Furnaces hosts an annual music and arts festival known as Sloss Music and Arts Festival, or Sloss Fest. Since it began in 2015, the festival has attracted hundreds of national headliners as well as local bands. In its first year, Sloss Fest had approximately 25,000 attendees over its two-day span. [89]

Another musical festival is the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival, presented at the end of August each year, concurrent with the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. This all-day festival features national and local jazz acts. In 2007, the festival drew an estimated 6,000 people. The Birmingham Folk Festival is an annual event held since 2006. It moved to Avondale Park in 2008. In 2009 the festival featured nine local bands and three touring "headliner bands". [90]

Joe Minter's African Village in America is a half-acre visionary art environment near downtown Birmingham. JoeMinter'sAfricanVillageInAmerica1.jpg
Joe Minter's African Village in America is a half-acre visionary art environment near downtown Birmingham.

The Southern Heritage Festival began in the 1960s as a music, arts, and entertainment festival for the African-American community to attract mostly younger demographics. Do Dah Day is an annual pet parade held around the end of May. The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil, an annual music festival event held in May to benefit local charities, always includes an all-star cast of talent. It typically draws more than 30,000 spectators for the annual two-day event. The annual Greek Festival, a celebration of Greek heritage, culture, and especially cuisine, is a charity fundraiser hosted by the Greek Orthodox Holy Trinity - Holy Cross Cathedral. The Greek Festival draws 20,000 patrons annually. [91] The Lebanese Food Festival is held at St. Elias Maronite Church. Central Alabama Pride puts on LGBT events each year, including a festival and parade. Magic City Brewfest is an annual festival benefiting local grassroots organization, Free the Hops, and focusing on craft beer. Alabama Bound is an annual book and author fair that celebrates Alabama authors and publishers. Hosted by the Birmingham Public Library, it is an occasion where fans may meet their favorite authors, buy their books, and hear them read from and talk about their work. Book signings follow each presentation.

Other attractions

The Vulcan statue on top of Red Mountain in Vulcan Park Vulcan statue.jpg
The Vulcan statue on top of Red Mountain in Vulcan Park

The Vulcan statue is a cast-iron representation of the Roman god of fire, iron and blacksmiths that is the symbol of Birmingham. The statue, cast for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and erected at Vulcan Park in 1938, stands high above the city looking down from a tower at the top of Red Mountain. Open to visitors, the tower offers views of the city below.

The Birmingham Zoo is a large regional zoo with more than 700 animals and a recently opened interactive children's zoo.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a 67-acre (270,000-square-metre) park displaying a wide variety of plants in interpretive gardens, including formal rose gardens, tropical greenhouses, and a large Japanese garden. The facility also includes a white-tablecloth restaurant, meeting rooms, and an extensive reference library. It is complemented by Hoover's 30-acre (120,000 m2) Aldridge Botanical Gardens, an ambitious project open since 2002. Aldridge offers a place to stroll, but is to add unique displays in coming years.

Alabama Splash Adventure (formerly VisionLand and Alabama Adventure) in Bessemer serves as the Birmingham area's water and theme park, featuring numerous slides and water-themed attractions.

Kelly Ingram Park is the site of notable civil rights protests and adjacent to historic 16th Street Baptist Church. Railroad Park opened in 2010 in downtown Birmingham's Railroad Reservation District. Oak Mountain State Park is about 10 miles (16 km) south of Birmingham. Red Mountain is one of the southernmost wrinkles in the Appalachian chain, and a scenic drive to the top provides views reminiscent of the Great Smoky Mountains further north. To the west of the city is Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, a 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) Civil War site which includes the well-preserved ruins of the Tannehill Iron Furnaces and the John Wesley Hall Grist Mill.

The Summit is an upscale lifestyle center with many stores and restaurants. It is in Southeast Birmingham off U.S. Highway 280, parallel to Interstate 459.

Cultural references

The folk song "Down in the Valley", also known as "Birmingham Jail", contains the lines, "Write me a letter, send it by mail; Send it in care of the Birmingham jail."

The song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd contains the line "in Birmingham they love the governor".

The song "Black Betty" performed by Lead Belly and Ram Jam, among others, contains the line "She's from Birmingham (bam-ba-lam) Way down in Alabam' (bam-ba-lam)".

Randy Newman wrote a song titled "Birmingham" about a man living in the city. It was released as a track on his 1974 album Good Old Boys .

Birmingham is mentioned in "Playboy Mommy" by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos and in "Run, Baby, Run" by American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.

The country band Blackhawk recorded the song "Postmarked Birmingham". [92]

Tracy Lawrence and Ken Mellons each recorded the country song "Paint Me a Birmingham".

The best known song of the husband and wife band Shovels & Rope is their original tune, "Birmingham".


Birmingham Barons Southern League baseball Regions Field 1885
Birmingham Legion FC USL Championship BBVA Field 2019
Birmingham Bulls Southern Professional Hockey League Pelham Civic Center 2017
Birmingham NBA G League Team (2022) NBA G League Legacy Arena 2018
Regions Field RegionsFieldBham.png
Regions Field

Birmingham has no major professional sport franchises. The Birmingham area is home to the Birmingham Barons, the AA minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, which plays at Regions Field in the Southside adjacent to Railroad Park. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB Blazers) has a popular basketball program and football program, [93] and Samford University, in Homewood, has basketball and football teams. The Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in the suburb of Hoover is home to the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament which drew more than 108,000 spectators in 2006. There is also an amateur soccer association, known as La Liga, and the Birmingham area hosts the Alabama Alliance basketball teams.

Birmingham was home to the Black Barons, a very successful Negro League baseball team. The Black Barons played home games at Rickwood Field, which is still standing in the Rising-West Princeton neighborhood, and is verified as being the oldest baseball field in America. Scenes from the movies Cobb (1994), Soul of the Game (1995) and 42 (2012) were filmed at Rickwood.

The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex tennis.jpg
The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex

The city has had several pro football franchises. The former pro football team in Birmingham, the Alabama Outlawz of the X-League Indoor Football, folded in 2015. Other teams included the two-time champion WFL franchise the Birmingham Americans/Birmingham Vulcans, before the league folded. The city hosted a USFL franchise, the Birmingham Stallions, but once again the league folded. A WLAF franchise, the Birmingham Fire, was renamed the Rhein Fire when the WLAF was renamed NFL Europa, but the league folded altogether in 2007. A CFL franchise, the Birmingham Barracudas, played one season and then folded as the league ended its American franchise experiment. An XFL franchise, the Birmingham Thunderbolts, were another instance where the league folded. In 2018, the short-lived Alliance of American Football introduced the Birmingham Iron, which played in the league's only season in 2019. [94]

Birmingham's Legion Field has hosted several college football postseason bowl games, including the Dixie Bowl (1948–49), the Hall of Fame Classic (1977–85), the All-American Bowl (1986–90), the SEC Championship Game (1992–93), the SWAC Championship Game (1999–2012), the Magic City Classic (1946–present) and, currently, the Birmingham Bowl (formerly the BBVA Compass Bowl, 2006–present). The Southeastern Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference, and Gulf South Conference are headquartered in Birmingham.

In 1996, Legion Field hosted early rounds of Olympic soccer where it drew record crowds. The field has also hosted men's and women's World Cup qualifiers and friendlies. A switch from natural grass to an artificial surface has left the stadium's role as a soccer venue in doubt.

Motorsports are very popular in the Birmingham area and across the state, and the area is home to numerous annual motorsport races. The Aaron's 499 & AMP Energy 500 are NASCAR Sprint Cup races that occur in April and October at the Talladega Superspeedway 50 miles (80 km) east of Birmingham. The Indy Grand Prix of Alabama shares the Barber Motorsports Park road course with Superbike and sports car GrandAm races. [95]

The PGA Champions Tour has had a regular stop in the Birmingham area since 1992, with the founding of the Bruno's Memorial Classic, later renamed the Regions Charity Classic. In 2011 the tournament was replaced by The Tradition, one of the Champions Tour's five "major" tour events.

Birmingham has been selected to host the World Games in 2021. It will be the first time an American city has hosted the event since the inaugural World Games were held in Santa Clara, California, in 1981. [96]

Birmingham is the home of a professional ice hockey team, the Birmingham Bulls of the Southern Professional Hockey League. They play at the Civic Center in nearby Pelham. The Birmingham Bulls was also the name of a team that played in the World Hockey Association from 1976 to 1979 and the Central Hockey League from 1979 to 1981. The WHA Bulls played their home games at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center. In 1992, another Birmingham hockey franchise was founded that used the Bulls name, the Birmingham Bulls of the East Coast Hockey League. This franchise was later sold to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Recreational fishing is popular in the Birmingham area. Recently,[ when? ] Birmingham was named "Bass Capital of the World" by ESPN and Bassmaster magazine. Over the last several years,[ which? ] Birmingham has been home to numerous major fishing tournaments, including the Bass Masters Classic.

The U.S. Paralympic Training Facility in Birmingham was a primary filming location for the 2005 documentary film Murderball , about wheelchair rugby players. [97]

The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI), at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, was founded by Dr. James Andrews in 1987. The institute's mission is to understand, prevent, and treat sports-related injuries. ASMI turned Birmingham into a major medical destination for professional athletes around the country. Dr. Andrews has operated on Bo Jackson, Drew Brees, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, and Jack Nicklaus, to name a few. His orthopedics practice is frequently mentioned in books and articles. [98] [99]

Birmingham is home to USL Championship club Birmingham Legion FC. In 2022, an NBA G-League team will play at a renovated Legacy Arena.


Current City Council membership [100]
1LaShunda Scales
2Hunter Williams
3Valerie A. AbbottPresident
4William Parker
5Darrell O'Quinn
6Sheila Tyson
7James E. Roberson, Jr.President Pro-Tem
8Steven Hoyt
9John R. Hilliard

Birmingham has a strong-mayor variant mayor–council form of government, led by a mayor and a nine-member city council. The current system replaced the previous city commission government in 1962 (primarily as a way to remove Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor from power). [101]

By Alabama law, an issue before a city council must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote. [102] Executive powers are held entirely by the mayor's office. Birmingham's current mayor is Randall Woodfin.

In 1974 Birmingham established a structured network of neighborhood associations and community advisory committees to insure public participation in governmental issues that affect neighborhoods. Neighborhood associations are routinely consulted on matters related to zoning changes, liquor licenses, economic development, policing and other city services. Neighborhoods are also granted discretionary funds from the city's budget to use for capital improvements. Each neighborhood's officers meet with their peers to form Community Advisory Committees, which are granted broader powers over city departments. The presidents of these committees, in turn, form the Citizens' Advisory Board, which meets regularly with the mayor, council, and department heads. Birmingham is divided into 23 communities, and again into 99 individual neighborhoods with individual neighborhood associations. [103]

State and federal representation

The United States Postal Service operates post offices in Birmingham. The main post office is at 351 24th Street North in downtown Birmingham. [104] Birmingham is also the home of the Social Security Administration's Southeastern Program Service Center. This center is one of only seven in the United States that process Social Security entitlement claims and payments. In addition, Birmingham is the home of a branch bank of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank.

Political controversy

Birmingham's recent political history has gained national attention. During his term as mayor, Larry Langford was arrested on charges of bribery. Langford was convicted in 2010 of accepting bribes in exchange for steering $7.1 million in county revenue to a prominent investment banker. The bribes included $230,000 cash, clothes, and jewelry. Langford was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $360,000 by a federal judge. The banker, Bill Blount, and a lobbyist, Al la Pierre, pled guilty and were sentenced to brief prison sentences. [105] [106]

Former mayor William A. Bell has also been the subject of national scrutiny. In 2015, the mayor got into a physical altercation with city councilman Marcus Lundy. The fight sent both men to the hospital. [107] [108]


Woodlawn High School, a magnet school Woodlawn High School Birmingham.jpg
Woodlawn High School, a magnet school

The city is served by the Birmingham City Schools system. It is run by the Birmingham Board of Education with a current active enrollment of 30,500 in 62 schools: seven high schools, 13 middle schools, 33 elementary schools, and nine kindergarten-eighth-grade primary schools.

Birmingham Public Library administers 21 branches throughout the city and is part of a wider system including another 19 suburban branches in Jefferson County, serving the entire community to provide education and entertainment for all ages. [109]

The greater-Birmingham metropolitan area is the home of numerous independent school systems, because there has been a great deal of fragmentation of educational systems in Alabama and especially Jefferson County. Some of the school systems only have three to five schools. The metropolitan area's three largest school systems are the Jefferson County School System, Birmingham City Schools, and the Shelby County School System. However, there are many smaller school systems.

The Birmingham area is reputed to be the home of some of Alabama's best high schools, colleges and universities. In 2005, the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School in Irondale, an eastern suburb of Birmingham, was rated as the No. 1 high school in America by Newsweek . The school remains among the nation's top high schools. Mountain Brook High School placed 250th on the list. Other area schools that have been rated among America's best in various publications include Homewood High School, Vestavia Hills High School, and the Alabama School of Fine Arts downtown. The metro area also has three highly regarded private college-preparatory schools: Saint Rose Academy, in Birmingham proper; the Altamont School, also in Birmingham proper; and Indian Springs School in north Shelby County near Pelham.

University of Alabama at Birmingham UAB Blazer Hall.jpg
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Noteworthy institutions of higher education in greater Birmingham include the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Samford University (including the Cumberland School of Law), Birmingham School of Law, Miles College, the independent Miles Law School, Jefferson State Community College, Birmingham-Southern College, University of Montevallo (in Shelby County), Lawson State Community College, and Virginia College in Birmingham, the largest career college based in Birmingham.


Birmingham is served by one major newspaper, The Birmingham News (circulation 150,346), which changed from daily to thrice-weekly publication on October 1, 2012. The Birmingham News' Wednesday edition features six subregional sections named East, Hoover, North, Shelby, South, and West that cover news stories from those areas. The newspaper has been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes, in 1991 and 2007. The Birmingham Post-Herald , the city's second daily, published its last issue in 2006. Other local publications include The North Jefferson News , The Leeds News, The Trussville Tribune (Trussville, Clay and Pinson), The Western Star (Bessemer) and The Western Tribune (Bessemer).

Weld for Birmingham, Birmingham Weekly and Birmingham Free Press [110] are Birmingham's free alternative publications. The Birmingham Times, a historic African-American newspaper, also is published weekly. Birmingham is served by the city magazine, Birmingham magazine, owned by The Birmingham News.

WBHM is the local public radio affiliate, [111] based in Birmingham.

Birmingham is part of the Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa television market. The major television affiliates, most of which have their transmitters and studios on Red Mountain in Birmingham, are WBRC 6 (Fox), WBIQ 10 (PBS), WVTM 13 (NBC), WTTO 21 (CW), WIAT 42 (CBS), WPXH 44 (ION), WBMA-LD 58/68.2 (ABC) and WABM 68 (MyNetworkTV).

NOAA weather radio station KIH54 broadcasts weather and hazard information for the Birmingham Metropolitan Area.

Major broadcasting companies who own stations in the Birmingham market include IHeartMedia, SummitMedia, Cumulus Media, and Crawford Broadcasting. The Rick and Bubba Show , which is syndicated to over 25 stations primarily in the Southeast, originates from Birmingham's WZZK-FM. The Paul Finebaum sports-talk show, also syndicated and carried nationwide on Sirius digital radio, originated from WJOX.

Birmingham is home to EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), the world's largest Catholic media outlet and largest religious network of any kind, broadcasting to about 150 million homes worldwide as of 2009. [112]

Urban planning

View of Birmingham from Railroad Park Railroad Park, Birmingham.jpg
View of Birmingham from Railroad Park

Before the first structure was built in Birmingham, the directors of the Elyton Land Company developed a plan for the city's 1,160 acres (4.7 km2). The streets were numbered from west to east, leaving 20th Street to form the central spine of downtown, anchored on the north by Capital Park and stretching into the slopes of Red Mountain to the south. A "railroad reservation" was granted through the center of the city, running east to west and zoned solely for industrial uses. As the city grew, bridges and underpasses separated the streets from the railroad bed, lending this central reservation some of the impact of a river (without the pleasant associations of a waterfront). From the start, Birmingham's streets and avenues were unusually wide at 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 m), purportedly to help evacuate unhealthy smoke.

In the early 20th century professional planners helped lay out many of the new industrial settlements and company towns in the Birmingham District, including Corey (now Fairfield), which was developed for the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (subsequently purchased by U.S. Steel). At the same time, a movement to consolidate several neighboring cities gained momentum. Although local referendums indicated mixed feelings about annexation, the Alabama legislature enacted an expansion of Birmingham's corporate limits that became effective on January 1, 1910.

The Robert Jemison Company developed many residential neighborhoods to the south and west of Birmingham which are still renowned for their aesthetic quality.

A 1924 plan for a system of parks, commissioned from the Olmsted Brothers, is seeing renewed interest with several significant new parks and greenways under development. Birmingham officials have approved a City Center Master Plan developed by Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh, which advocates strongly for more residential development in the downtown area. The plan also called for a major park over several blocks of the central railroad reservation: Railroad Park, which opened in 2010. Along with Ruffner Mountain Park and Red Mountain Park, Birmingham ranks first in the United States for public green space per resident.[ citation needed ]



The city of Birmingham has a higher than average percentage of households without a car. In 2015, 15.8 percent of Birmingham households lacked a car, and decreased to 12.3 percent in 2016. The national average was 8.7 percent in 2016. Birmingham averaged 1.48 cars per household in 2016, compared to a national average of 1.8. [113]


Interstate 59 (co-signed with Interstate 20) approaching Interstate 65 in downtown Birmingham I20I59Birmingham.JPG
Interstate 59 (co-signed with Interstate 20) approaching Interstate 65 in downtown Birmingham
  • I-20.svg I-20
  • I-22.svg I-22
  • I-59.svg I-59
  • I-65.svg I-65
  • I-222.svg I-222 (proposed connector between I-22 and I-422; direct interchange cannot be built due to topography)
  • I-422.svg I-422 (proposed Northern Bypass)
  • I-459.svg I-459 (Southern Bypass)

The city is served by four Interstate Highways: Interstate 20, Interstate 65, Interstate 59, and Interstate 22, as well as a southern bypass expressway Interstate 459, which connects with I-20/59 to the southwest, with I-65 to the south, I-20 to the east, and I-59 to the northeast. Beginning in downtown Birmingham is the Elton B. Stephens Expressway—the "Red Mountain Expressway" to the southeast—which carries U.S. Highway 31 and U.S. Highway 280 to, through, and over Red Mountain. Interstate 22 connects I-65 and Memphis, Tennessee. Construction has begun on the first segment of I-422, a Northern Beltline Highway that will serve the suburbs on the opposite side of Birmingham from I-459.

Public transport

The Birmingham Street Railway in 1903 The street railway review (1891) (14760967862).jpg
The Birmingham Street Railway in 1903

In the area of metropolitan public transportation, Birmingham is served by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) bus, trolley, and paratransit system, which from 1985 until 2008 was branded the Metro Area Express (MAX). BJCTA also operates a "downtown circulator" service named "D A R T" for Downtown Area Runabout Transit, which consists of two routes in the central business district and one in the UAB area, and also operates hourly Airport Shuttle routes directly from downtown and UAB area hotels to the airport. [114] Bus service to other cities is provided by Greyhound Lines. [115] Megabus offers bus service to Atlanta and Memphis. [116]

Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport, 4 miles (6 km) northeast of downtown, serves more than 3 million passengers every year. With more than 160 flights daily, the airport offers flights to 37 cities provided by United Express, Delta Air Lines/Delta Connection, American Eagle, and Southwest Airlines.

Birmingham is served by three major railroad freight lines: the Norfolk Southern Company, CSX Transportation, and the BNSF Railway, together with smaller regional railroads, the Alabama Warrior Railway and the Birmingham Southern Railroad. Amtrak operates one passenger train, the Crescent , each direction daily.


The water for Birmingham and the intermediate urbanized area is served by the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB). A public authority that was established in 1951, the BWWB serves all of Jefferson, northern Shelby, and western St. Clair counties. The largest reservoir for BWWB is Lake Purdy, which is on the Jefferson and Shelby County line, but has several other reservoirs including Bayview Lake in western Jefferson County. There are plans to pipeline water from Inland Lake in Blount County and Lake Logan Martin, but those plans are on hold indefinitely.

Jefferson County Environmental Services serves the Birmingham metro area with sanitary sewer service. Sewer rates have increased in recent years [117] after citizens concerned with pollution in area waterways filed a lawsuit that resulted in a federal consent decree to repair an aging sewer system. Because the estimated cost of the consent decree was approximately three times more than the original estimate, many blame the increased rates on corruption of several Jefferson County officials. [117] The sewer construction and bond-swap agreements continue to be a controversial topic in the area. [117]

Electric power is provided primarily by Alabama Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company. However, some of the surrounding area such as Bessemer and Cullman are provided power by the TVA. Bessemer also operates its own water and sewer system. [118] Natural gas is provided by Alagasco, although some metro area cities operate their own natural gas services. The local telecommunications are provided by AT&T. Cable television service is provided by Bright House Networks within the cities of Birmingham and Irondale, and Charter Communications in the rest of the metro area.

Notable people

Sister cities

Birmingham's Sister Cities program is overseen by the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission. [119]

See also


  1. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the highest and lowest temperature readings during an entire month or year) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  2. Official records for Birmingham kept April 1895 to December 1929 at the Weather Bureau Office and at Birmingham Int'l since January 1930. For more information, see Threadex.

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Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 29th most-populous city in the United States. It is one of two cities in Kentucky designated as first-class, the other being Lexington, the state's second-largest city. Louisville is the historical seat and, since 2003, the nominal seat of Jefferson County, on the Indiana border.

Golden, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

Golden is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat of Jefferson County, Colorado, United States. Golden lies along Clear Creek at the base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush on June 16, 1859, the mining camp was originally named "Golden City" in honor of Thomas L. Golden. Golden City served as the capital of the provisional Territory of Jefferson from 1860 to 1861, and capital of the official Territory of Colorado from 1862 to 1867. In 1867, the territorial capital was moved about 12 miles (19 km) east to Denver City. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 18,867.

Jefferson County, Alabama U.S. county in Alabama, United States

Jefferson County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, its population was 658,466. Its county seat is Birmingham, the most populous city in the state. Its rapid growth as an industrial city in the 20th century, based on heavy manufacturing in steel and iron, established its dominance.

Bessemer, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Bessemer is a city southwest of Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama, United States. The population was 27,456 at the 2010 Census. It is within the Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area, of which Jefferson County is the center. It developed rapidly as an industrial city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2019 it was named Alabama's "Worst City to Live in" by 24/7 Wall Street.

Homewood, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Homewood is a city in southeastern Jefferson County, Alabama, United States. It is a suburb of Birmingham, located on the other side of Red Mountain due south of the city center. As of the 2010 census its population was 25,167, and in 2016 the estimated population was 25,613.

Hoover, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Hoover is a city in Jefferson and Shelby counties in north central Alabama, United States. The largest suburb near Birmingham, the city had a population of 84,848 as of the 2015 US Census estimate. Hoover is part of the Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area and is also included in the Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL Combined Statistical Area. Hoover's territory is along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Leeds, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.

Mountain Brook, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Mountain Brook is a city in southeastern Jefferson County, Alabama, United States, and a suburb of Birmingham. Its estimated 2015 population was 20,691. It is one of the state's most affluent places.

Greenville, South Carolina City in South Carolina

Greenville is a city in and the seat of Greenville County, South Carolina, United States. The city's mayor is Knox H. White, who has been in that position since December 1995. With an estimated population of 68,219 as of 2017, it is the sixth-largest city in the state. The population of the surrounding area was 400,492 as of 2010, making it the third-largest urban area in South Carolina as well as the fastest growing. Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA had a population of 906,626 in 2018, making it the largest in South Carolina and the third largest in the Carolinas.

<i>Vulcan</i> statue United States historic place

The Vulcan statue is the largest cast iron statue in the world, and is the city symbol of Birmingham, Alabama, reflecting its roots in the iron and steel industry. The 56-foot (17 m) tall statue depicts the Roman god Vulcan, god of the fire and forge. It was created as Birmingham's entry for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. The statue is the world's largest iron-ore statue, and among the nation's tallest.

Lehigh Valley Place in the United States

The Lehigh Valley, known officially by the United States Census Bureau and the United States Office of Management and Budget as the Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton, PA–NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area and referred to colloquially as The Valley, is a metropolitan region officially consisting of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties in eastern Pennsylvania and Warren county on the western edge of New Jersey, in the Eastern United States. The Lehigh Valley's largest city, with a population of 120,443 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census, is Allentown. The region is a part of the larger New York City metropolitan area, but borders the Philadelphia metropolitan area. All of the region, except Warren County, New Jersey, is part of Philadelphia's designated media market.

Southside (Birmingham) Place

The historic Southside community is situated on the hilly and forested slopes of Red Mountain just south of Birmingham, Alabama's central business district. The neighborhood includes the landscape from Railroad Park to the crest of Red Mountain, and from Interstate 65 to U.S. Highway 31. It is one of the most densely populated residential neighborhoods in the city and home to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its adjacent hospitals, the state's second largest employer. The Birmingham Business Journal forecasts Southside to have the highest income growth over the next four years of any zipcode in the metro area.

Sloss Furnaces United States historic place

Sloss Furnaces is a National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. It operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971. After closing, it became one of the first industrial sites in the U.S. to be preserved and restored for public use. In 1981, the furnaces were designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior.

Avondale (Birmingham) Birmingham Neighborhood in Alabama, United States

Avondale was a company town built around the Avondale Mills east of Birmingham, Alabama in Jefferson County. The town was incorporated on March 18, 1887. The city was annexed into Birmingham in 1910 and is now divided into three separate neighborhoods, North Avondale, East Avondale and South Avondale.

The Birmingham District is a geological area in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama where the raw materials for making steel, limestone, iron ore, and coal are found together in abundance. The district includes Red Mountain, Jones Valley, and the Warrior and Cahaba coal fields in Central Alabama.

Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex Architectural structure

The Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex is a sports, convention and entertainment complex located in Birmingham, Alabama. The Sheraton Birmingham and Westin Birmingham are located on the complex adjoining the convention center. Alongside numerous exhibit halls, meeting and ballrooms, the complex features three entertainment venues: an arena, concert hall, and theater. Construction on a fourth venue, a college football stadium, began in July 2019.

McCalla, Alabama Unincorporated community in Alabama, United States

McCalla is an unincorporated community in Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties, Alabama, United States, southwest of Bessemer and the geographic terminus of the Appalachian Mountains.

Adger, Alabama Unincorporated community in Alabama, United States

Adger is an unincorporated crossroads community in Jefferson County, Alabama, southwest of Birmingham.

Index of Alabama-related articles Wikimedia list article

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the U.S. state of Alabama.

Birmingham metropolitan area, Alabama

The Birmingham metropolitan area, sometimes known as Greater Birmingham, is a metropolitan area in north central Alabama centered on Birmingham, Alabama.


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