Monday, December 14, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Magnet # 117: Map of Alabama

Material: Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Me

This is the anniversary of the day Alabama gained its statehood in 1819.  When Europeans came to the area, the Spanish, French, and British had all tried to claim the land for themselves.  Prior to becoming its own state, it had been part of Spain's Florida, Britain's Georgia, and the United States' Mississippi territory.  Once it had gained statehood, settlers were attracted to the area to a large degree because of its rich, dark soil.  And, ever since, they've been growing cotton, peanuts, corn, and peaches, to name a few.

It's odd - I think it might be easier to write a post about a state I've only visited once or twice than to come up with one for a state I've spent more than half my life in. Just what do you narrow it down to? Well, for starters, Alabama isn't as bad as some might think. I know there's the stereotype of trailer parks and crummy old pickup trucks and, yes, we have those, but there's plenty of nice, modern homes, and Antebellum gems to be found. I'm from Montgomery, where we actually have one of the nicer Shakespeare festivals in the country. Yes, Bubbas can enjoy Hamlet, too. I've never found the state lacking in the cultural area, particularly in Birmingham, where there are a number of museums, gardens, and an extensive public park system.  And NASA's US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville has been the site of many advancements in space exploration.  So clearly, Alabama has much more than beer bellies and trucks propped up on cement blocks, as some might be tempted to think.

I guess to a large degree, Alabama tends to get underestimated or overlooked, but I still think it's a great state.  It's home for me, even if I don't live there anymore.  The state doesn't get a huge amount of attention from Civil War buffs, because, although it supplied a great deal of Confederate soldiers, no major battles were fought there. Of course, Sherman also never made it to there with his troops, so while Southern states like Georgia and South Carolina have had historical Antebellum areas almost completely wiped out, those in Alabama remain mainly intact. And the state also gets the wrong sort of attention from all of the ways it continued to treat its African American citizens after the Civil War.  But the Civil Rights Movement pretty much began in the state, so it does have that in its favor.  It's taken on more industrialization ever since the Civil War - Birmingham was the South's leading steel producer until World War II was over.  Since then, that industry has dwindled while others have risen up.  More recently, Alabama has become very a very important manufacturing site to the automotive industry - it's the fourth highest producing state in the country.  And for those of you who are currently freezing your buns off in the northern areas of the country, Montgomery's highs this week are in the 50's and 60's.  Not bad - I love those Deep South temperatures (okay, the humidity isn't great, though).

In eighth grade Alabama History class, I was taught one of the funnier tidbits I've learned about Alabama - apparently, there's a rivalry between lower and upper Alabama.  I don't know if this stems from the Auburn and Alabama rivalry or not.  But my history teacher used to joke that he's from L.A. - or lower Alabama.  And he claimed to have come across some tension while shopping in Birmingham in the upper regions of the state.  I confess, I've never experienced this rivalry firsthand and I remember another classmate saying as much, but if it does exist, I think it doesn't make much sense.  Instead of dividing ourselves, why not join together and be one proud group of Alabamians?  Maybe then, the state can do a better job of overcoming its negative stereotypes and showing the rest of the country all it has to offer.

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