State capital of Alabama, in Montgomery County, on the Alabama River; population (2000 est) 201,600. Linked to the port of Mobile by river, it is a long-established administrative and commercial centre with diverse light industries. Two major air force bases are located nearby. Montgomery was incorporated in 1819; it became state capital in 1846.
History The site was originally inhabited in the prehistoric age and was later settled by the American Indians. The area was claimed for Spain in 1540 and French settlers arrived in 1717. The present city dates from 1819, when East Alabama and New Philadelphia were amalgamated. It was named after Gen Richard Montgomery of the American Revolution. It was made state capital in 1846. As the gathering point of the Confederate States of America in February 1861, Montgomery was regarded as the ‘Cradle of the Confederacy’; US politician Jefferson Davis was sworn in as Confederate president in the city. Montgomery was capital of the Confederacy until July 1861, when the capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia. Montgomery developed as a market for cotton, cattle, and timber after the Civil War. The first electric streetcars in the USA operated in Montgomery from 1886 and the world's first flight school was opened in the city in 1910 by the Wright Brothers. In 1955 the Montgomery Bus Boycott began when a black passenger, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white person; the boycott proved to be a landmark in the civil-rights campaign against segregation laws. Martin Luther King Jr, a Montgomery cleric, led a black boycott of public buses as a protest against segregation, and the bus-segregation laws were nullified by the US Supreme Court on 13 November 1956. King led marches to Montgomery in 1965 to protest against the violent attacks on black people registering for the vote.
Features Montgomery has 58 entries on the national register of historic places including the state capitol (1850), historic districts, and the Governor's Mansion (1907). Buildings from the pre-Civil War period include the first White House of the Confederacy (1835) and Huntingdon College (1854). One of the largest collections on the history of the South is contained in the Alabama Archives and History Museum. The Civil Rights Memorial (1999) and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (1878) commemorate the anti-discrimination movements of the 1950s and 1960s. The Alabama Shakespeare festival has been held annually in the city since 1985. Montgomery is also the burial place of US politician George Wallace, a governor of Alabama and the joint longest-serving state governor in US history. US musician Nat King Cole was born in the city.
King, Martin Luther: Call to Action
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