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Birmingham (pronounced /ˈbɜrmɪŋhæm/, BUR-ming-ham) is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. According to an estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007, Birmingham had a population of about 229,800. The Birmingham Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009, had a population of about 1,212,848. The Birmingham Metropolitan Area contains about one-quarter of the entire population of Alabama.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, just after the American Civil War, through the merger of three pre-existing towns, and Birmingham grew from there, annexing many more of its smaller neighbors, into an industrial and railroad transportation powerhouse, especially in mining, the iron and steel industry, and railroading. Birmingham was named for Birmingham, England, once one of the major metal manufacturing industrial cities of Great Britain.
From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was the primary industrial center of the Southern United States. The astonishing pace of Birmingham's growth during the period from 1881 through 1920, Birmingham earned its nicknames "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Much like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Birmingham's major industries were iron and steel production, plus a major component of the railroading industry, where rails and railroad cars were both manufactured in Birmingham. In the field of railroading, the two primary hubs of railroading in the Deep South were Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, beginning in the 1860s and continuing through to the present day. Going clockwise from the due north, Birmingham is the nexus of railroad lines that connect it with Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Columbus, Georgia, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee.
In recent decades, these railroad lines have all become paralleled by the Federal Interstate Highways Interstate 65, Interstate 59, Interstate 20, and Interstate 22, plus U.S. Route 280 to its southeast and Columbus, Ga.
Over the course of the 20th Century, the economy of Birmingham became diversified. Though the manufacturing industry maintains a strong presence in Birmingham, other businesses and industries such as banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have risen in stature. Mining in the Birmingham area is practically a dead industry, except for coal mining, which remains a large business. Major banks and insurance companies have long been strong in Birmingham, and as mentioned above, Birmingham is a nexus of railroading, especially railroad freight. With the advent of the truck and the automobile, the great growth of the U.S. Highways, and then the Interstate Highways, Birmingham also became a powerful center of the trucking industry, and also car and intercity bus transportation.
For the past several decades, the only passenger railroad service in Birmingham has been the AMTRAK "Southern Crescent" train, with one train eastbound and one train westbound daily. This train connects Birmingham with Atlanta to the east, and eventually with Charlotte, N.C. and Washington, DC; and it also connects Birmingham with Tuscaloosa and other locations to the southwest, such as Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans.
The electric power industry has long been strong in Birmingham, with this city being both the headquarters city for the Alabama Power Company and a major consumer of electric power that is brought in by transmission lines from hydroelectric power dams, coal-fired power plants, and nuclear power plants that are located elsewhere.
The telephone communication business has long been strong in Birmingham, with it first being a major secondary location of the Southern Bell Telephone Company (headquartered in Atlanta), and then the headquarters of the South Central Bell Telephone Company. All through a long series of mergers, acquisitions, and renamings, Birmingham has remained a nexus of telephone communications in the Deep South, with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company being the most recent owner of the telephone business in this area.
Just west of Birmingham, at "Port Birmingham", there is a riverport on the Black Warrior River, which now serves mostly for the shipping of barges of coal to the seaport of Mobile, Alabama, but in past decades, long removed, Port Birmingham has served as a port both for the import of iron ore from various countries, and for the export of iron and steel products to other parts of the United States and to foreign countries.
In the field of college and university education, Birmingham has been the location of the University of Alabama School of Medicine and the University of Alabama School of Dentistry since 1947, and since that time, it has also become provided with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (founded circa 1965), one of three main campuses of the University of Alabama, and also with the private Samford University. Between these two universities, Birmingham has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, law, engineering, and nursing. Birmingham is home to three of the state's five law schools: Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, and Miles Law School.
Today, Birmingham ranks as one of the most important business centers in the Southeastern United States and is also one of the largest banking centers in the United States. In addition, the Birmingham area serves as headquarters to one Fortune 500 company: Regions Financial. Five Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered in Birmingham.
Birmingham was founded on June 1, 1871, by several cotton-gin promoters who sold lots near the planned crossing of the Alabama & Chattanooga and South & North Alabama railroads. The first business at that crossroads was the trading post and country store Yeilding's. The site of the railroad crossing was notable for the nearby deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone – the three main raw materials used in making steel. Birmingham is the only place worldwide where significant amounts of all three minerals can be found in such proximity. From the start the new city was planned as a great center of industry. The founders, organized as the Elyton Land Company, borrowed the name of Birmingham, one of England's main industrial cities, to advertise that point. The growth of the planned city was impeded by an outbreak of cholera and a Wall Street crash in 1873. However, it began to grow shortly afterward at an explosive rate.
The town of Elyton, Alabama, itself, and several other surrounding towns were absorbed into Birmingham in 1911.
The turn of the century brought the substantial growth that gave Birmingham the nickname "The Magic City" as the downtown area developed from a low-rise commercial and residential district into a busy grid of neoclassical mid-rise and high-rise buildings and busy 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 stretching along the east–west railroad corridor. This impressive group of early skyscrapers was nicknamed "The Heaviest Corner on Earth".
The Great Depression hit Birmingham especially hard as sources of capital that were fueling the city's growth rapidly dried up at the same time that farm laborers, driven off the land, made their way to the city in search of work. New Deal programs 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 wartime demand for steel and the post-war building boom gave Birmingham a rapid return to prosperity. Manufacturing diversified beyond the production of raw materials and major civic institutions such as schools, parks and museums, were able to expand their scope.
In the 1950s and 1960s Birmingham received national and international attention as a center of the civil rights struggle for African-Americans. Locally the movement's activists were led by Fred Shuttlesworth, a fiery preacher who became legendary for his fearlessness in the face of violence, notably a string of racially motivated bombings that earned Birmingham the derisive nickname "Bombingham".
A watershed in the civil rights movement occurred in 1963 when Shuttlesworth requested that Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Shuttlesworth had co-founded, come to Birmingham, where King had once been a pastor, to help end segregation. Together they launched "Project C" (for "Confrontation"), a massive assault on the Jim Crow system. 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, almost all of them high-school age children. These protests were ultimately successful, leading not only to desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While imprisoned 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. Birmingham is also known for a bombing which occurred later that year, in which four black girls were killed by a bomb planted at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The event would inspire the African-American poet Dudley Randall's opus, "The Ballad of Birmingham", as well as jazz musician John Coltrane's song "Alabama".
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 then been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries.
In the 1970s urban renewal efforts focused around the development of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which developed into 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. Birmingham's banking institutions enjoyed considerable growth as well and new skyscrapers started to appear 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. In 1979 Birmingham elected Dr. Richard Arrington Jr. as its first African-American mayor.
The population inside Birmingham's city limits has fallen over the past few decades, due in large part to "white flight" from the city of Birmingham proper to surrounding suburbs. From 340,887 in 1960, the population was down to 242,820 in 2000, a loss of about 29 percent. The Center Point neighborhood incorporated as a new city in 2002, which caused the population to drop to 227,690. That same period saw a corresponding rise in the populations of the white flight suburb communities of Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Alabaster, and Gardendale, none of which were incorporated as municipalities until after 1950.
Today, Birmingham has begun to experience a bit of a rebirth. Currently[when?] there are around a billion dollars being invested in reconstructing the downtown area into a 24-hour mixed-use district. The market for downtown lofts and condominiums has mushroomed while restaurant, retail and cultural options are beginning to sprout up. In 2006 the visitors bureau selected "the diverse city" as a new tag line for the city.
Birmingham occupies Jones Valley, flanked by long parallel mountain ridges (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills – see Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians) running from north-east to south-west. 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 America.
Sand Mountain, a smaller 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, located due east of the heart of the city, is home to Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 151.9 square miles (393.5 km²), of which, 149.9 square miles (388.3 km²) of it is land and 2.0 square miles (5.3 km²) of it (1.34%) is water.
Birmingham has a Humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. January sees average highs in the low to mid 50s °F (10-13 °C), with lows just above freezing, falling to that point on 55 nights per year. In July temperatures are in the low 90s °F (32-34 °C), with lows averaging around 70 °F (21.1 °C); highs exceed 90 °F (32.2 °C) on 58 days per year and 100 °F (37.8 °C) on 2 or 3. Precipitation is relatively well-distributed throughout the year, rarely falling in the form of snow during winter; however, 10.3 inches (26.2 cm) fell on March 13, 1993 during the 1993 Storm of the Century, which left the highest one-storm and daily snowfall total.
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 features less rainfall and fewer storms, as well as lower humidity than the spring, but it is also a secondary severe weather season. Birmingham is located on the heart of a Tornado Alley known as the Dixie Alley due to the frequency of tornadoes in Central Alabama. The Greater Birmingham area was hit by two F5 tornadoes – in 1977 and 1998 occurring on its western (1998) and northern suburbs (1977). In late summer and fall months, Birmingham experiences occasional tropical storms and hurricanes due to its proximity to the Central Gulf Coast.
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).
By Alabama law, an issue before a City Council must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote (Act No. 452, Ala. Acts 1955, as supplemented by Act No. 294, Ala. Acts 1965.). Executive powers are held entirely by the Mayor's Office. Birmingham's current Mayor is William A. Bell. Mayor Bell, who previously served as interim Mayor in 1999, won a special election on January 19, 2010 to fill the unexpired term of former Mayor Larry Langford. Langford was removed from office after being convicted of federal corruption charges on October 28, 2009.
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 Citizen's Advisory Board, which meets regularly with the mayor, council, and department heads. Birmingham is divided into a total of 23 communities, and again into a total of 99 individual neighborhoods with individual neighborhood associations.
The United States Postal Service operates post offices in Birmingham. The main post office is located at 351 24th Street North in Downtown Birmingham. 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 processes Social Security entitlement claims and payments. In addition, Birmingham is the home of a branch bank of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank.
From Birmingham's early days onward, the steel industry has always played a crucial role in the local economy. Though the steel industry no longer has the same prominence it once held in Birmingham, steel production and processing continue to play a key role in the economy. Several of the nation's largest steelmakers, including CMC Steel, U.S. Steel, McWane, and Nucor, all 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 Birmingham.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham's economy was transformed by investments in bio-technology 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 largest in Alabama with a workforce of about 20,000. Health care services provider HealthSouth is also headquartered in the city.
Birmingham is also a leading banking center, serving as home to two major banks: Regions Financial Corporation and Compass Bancshares. 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 Bank. In November 2006, Regions Financial merged with AmSouth Bancorporation, which was also headquartered in Birmingham. They formed the 8th Largest U. S. Bank (by total assets). Nearly a dozen smaller banks are also headquartered in the Magic City, such as Superior Bank and New South Federal Savings Bank. As of 2009, the finance & 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.
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.
The insurance companies 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 was the home city of the former Liberty National Life Insurance Company, which has been taken over by (?).
Birmingham is also a powerhouse of construction and engineering companies, including BE&K, Brasfield & Gorrie and B.L. Harbert International which routinely are included in the Engineering News-Record lists of top design and international construction firms.
Two of the largest soft-drink bottlers in the United States, each with more than $500 million in sales per year, are located in Birmingham. The Buffalo Rock Company, founded in 1901, was formerly a maker of just root beer, but now it is a major bottler for the Pepsi Cola Company, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, United, founded in 1902, is the third-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States.
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 at the Web site Salary.com determined that Birmingham was second in the nation for building personal net worth, based on local salary rates, living expenses, and unemployment rates.
A study by Bizjournals.com in 2006 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.
The city of Birmingham 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 67 schools: seven high schools, 13 middle schools, 34 elementary schools, and nine kindergarten-eighth-grade primary schools.
The Birmingham Public Library with 21 branches serves the entire community to provide education and entertainment for all ages.
The Greater-Birmingham metropolitan area is the home of numerous independent school systems, because there has a been a great deal of fragmentation of educational systems in Alabama, and especially in Jefferson County. Some of these "school systrems" only have three to five schools. The Metropolita 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, many smaller school systems.
The Birmingham area is reputeted 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 #1 high school in America by Newsweek, a national publication. The school remains among the nation's Top 5 high schools. Mountain Brook High School placed 250 on the list. Other local schools that have been rated among America's best in various publications include Vestavia Hills High School and the Alabama School of Fine Arts located downtown. The metro area also has three highly regarded preparatory schools: Saint Rose Academy located in Birmingham proper The Altamont School, also located in Birmingham proper, and Indian Springs School in north Shelby County near Pelham.
Before the first structure was built in Birmingham, the plan of the city was laid out over a total of 1,160 acres (4.7 km²) by the directors of the Elyton Land Co. The streets were numbered from west to east, leaving Twentieth 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 and includes a major park over several blocks of the central railroad reservation to be called the Railroad Reservation Park. Along with Ruffner Mountain Park, and the proposed Red Mountain Park, Birmingham would rank first in the United States for public green space per resident.
Birmingham has one of the most extensive networks of highways and roadways in the Southeast. 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 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 both U.S. Highway 31 and U.S. Highway 280 to, through, and over Red Mountain. Interstate 22 is on the verge of completion between Birmingham and Memphis, Tennessee, lacking only the final three to four miles that will connect it with I - 65 just north of the Birmingham city limits. There have been proposals and plans for the construction of a Northern Beltline Highway on the opposite side of Birmingham from Interstate 459.
In the area of metropolitan public transportation, Birmingham is served by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority through the Metro Area Express (MAX) bus system.
Birmingham is served by Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. This airport serves more than 3 million passengers every year. With more than 160 flights daily, the airport offers flights to 37 cities across the United States. Commercial passenger service through Birmingham is provided by United Express, Delta Air Lines/Delta Connection, American Airlines/American Eagle, Continental Airlines/Continental Express, US Airways/US Airways Express, and Southwest Airlines.
Birmingham is served by three major railroad freight companies: the Norfolk Southern Company, CSX Transportation, and the BNSF Railway. All three of these have major railroad yards in the metro area. Smaller regional railroads such as the Jefferson Western and Birmingham Southern also serve railroad freight customers in Birmingham. AMTRAK's Crescent connects Birmingham with the cities and towns of Washington, D.C. (and points northeast and northwest of that), Greensboro, NC, Charlotte, N.C., Greenville, SC, Atlanta, Anniston, Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Meridian, Mississippi, Hattiesburg, and New Orleans. However, there is only one eastbound and one westbound "Crescent" train daily. Birmingham's AMTRAK Station is located at 1819 Morris Avenue, between 18th street and 19th street.
The water and sewer services for Birmingham and the intermediate urbanized area is served by the Birmingham Water Works Authority (BWWB). A public authority that was established in 1951, the BWWB serves all of Jefferson, northern Shelby, western St. Clair counties. The largest reservoir for BWWB is Lake Purdy, which is located 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 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 within the Jefferson County Environmental Services Department. One major reason for the higher cost was that Jefferson County had to buy the sewers from the many smaller municipalities in the area to ensure that these sewers were being maintained in a fashion that would meet E.P.A. approval to avoid massive fines for failure to comply with the consent decree. This continues to be a controversial topic in the region.
Electric power is provided primarily by Southern Company-subsidiary, Alabama Power. However, some of the surrounding area such as Bessemer and Cullman are provided by TVA. Bessemer also operates its own water and sewer system . 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 metro area.
As of the census of 2000, there were 242,820 people, 98,782 households, and 59,269 families residing in the city. 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/sq mi (288.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.46% Black or African American, 24.07% 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. Also there is a Lebanese population in the city. It is one of the few Lebanese populations in the south.
There were 98,782 households out 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 average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the city, the 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. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,735, and the median income for a family was $31,851. Males had a median income of $28,184 versus $23,641 for females. The city's per capita income was $15,663. About 20.9% of families and 24.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.4% of those under age 18 and 18.5% of those age 65 or over.
Suburbs are listed in order of population.
Birmingham has the seventh-highest crime rate in the country.
Although homicide rates have remained above national averages for several years , the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) crime statistics are much lower. According to statistics reported to the FBI, Birmingham has the seventh highest murder rate among US cities and is ranked eighteenth in violent crime, but again this is for Birmingham proper only and does not include the various sub-cities which make up the 1.1 million Birmingham MSA. In fact, the Birmingham MSA crime rate is in line with several low crime southern MSAs such as Jacksonville, FL, and Charlotte, NC. Recently the A&E series, "The First 48" has filmed episodes with some of the city's Homicide detectives.
The downtown district, relatively free from crime, is patrolled by City Action Partnership (CAP), formed in 1995 to increase the perception of safety. Funded by a downtown improvement association, the organization reports a 62% decline in criminal activity within its 109-block area.
Birmingham is the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama with its numerous art galleries in the area and home to Birmingham Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the Southeast. Birmingham is also home to the state's major ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra companies such the Alabama Ballet, 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 Five Points South and Lakeview, but an additional $55-million entertainment district has been approved for an area adjacent to the BJCC.
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 includes Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which houses a detailed and emotionally-charged narrative exhibit putting Birmingham's history into the context of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement. It is located on Kelly Ingram Park adjacent to the 16th Street Baptist Church.
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 Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, with the largest collection of motorcycles in the world, the Iron & Steel Museum of Alabama at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park near McCalla, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and the Talladega Superspeedway International Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.
South of downtown on Red Mountain, Vulcan Park features the world's largest cast iron statue, depicting Vulcan at his forge. It was cast for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, and erected at Vulcan Park in 1938.
Birmingham is home to numerous cultural festivals showcasing music, films, and regional heritage. 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 on the last weekend in September at eight venues around downtown. Screenings are concentrated at the Alabama Theatre.
Another musical festival is the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival, presented at the end of September 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 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. . The Lebanese Food Festival also draws many people. It is held at St. Elias Maronite Church. 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 when fans may meet their favorite authors, buy their books, and hear them read from and talk about their work. Book signings follow each presentation.
Kelly Ingram Park, site of notable civil rights protests and adjacent to historic 16th Street Baptist Church. Oak Mountain State Park is about 10 miles (16 km) South of Birmingham. It 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 located 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 Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a 67 acre (270,000 m²) 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 complimented by Hoover's 30-acre (120,000 m2) Aldridge Botanical Gardens, an ambitious project open since 2002. Still under development, Aldridge is currently more valuable to locals looking for a place to stroll than to tourists, but promises unique displays in coming years. The Birmingham Zoo is a large regional zoo with more than 700 animals and a recently opened interactive children's zoo. Alabama Adventure Theme Park (formerly Visionland) is an amusement park with two independent sections: Splash Beach Water Park and Magic Adventure Theme Park,. The theme park has 25 different thrill rides including The Rampage wooden roller coaster and Zoomerang, a steel roller coaster purchased in 2004 from the Brisbane expo. (The park was renamed at the start of the 2006 season, and major expansion plans were announced at that time.) The Summit is an upscale lifestyle center with many stores and restaurants. It is located in Southeast Birmingham off of U.S. Highway 280, parallel to Interstate 459. Its anchor tenants are Belk and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Other area sport facilities include:
Birmingham is served by one daily newspaper, The Birmingham News (circulation 150,346), which in 2007 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, the newspaper's second Pulitzer. The Birmingham News' Wednesday edition features six sub regional sections named East, Hoover, North, Shelby, South, and West that cover news stories from those areas. 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 Western Star (Bessemer) and The Western Tribune (Bessemer).
Birmingham Weekly, Birmingham Free Press and Black & White (published biweekly) 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 of the Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham magazine.
Birmingham is part of the Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa television market, which is the nation's 40th largest. The major television affiliates are WBRC 6 (Fox), WBIQ 10 (PBS), WVTM 13 (NBC), WTTO 21 (CW), WBMA 33/40 (ABC), WIAT 42 (CBS), WPXH 44 (ION), and WABM 68 (MyNetworkTV).
Over 45 radio stations serve the Birmingham market, which is the nation's 56th largest radio market. Major broadcasting companies who own stations in the Birmingham market include Clear Channel, Cox Radio, Citadel Broadcasting, 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 to a network of stations mainly in Alabama, originates from WJOX.
Birmingham's Sister Cities program is overseen by the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission
Adamsville | Bessemer | Birmingham‡ | Brighton | Center Point | Clay | Fairfield | Fultondale | Gardendale | Graysville | Helena‡ | Homewood | Hoover‡ | Hueytown | Irondale | Leeds‡ | Lipscomb | Midfield | Mountain Brook | Pinson | Pleasant Grove | Sumiton‡ | Tarrant | Trussville‡ | Vestavia Hills‡ | Warrior‡
‡This populated place also has portions in an adjacent county or counties
‡This populated place also has portions in an adjacent county or counties
Atlantic Coastal Plain | Birmingham District | Black Belt | Central Alabama | Cumberland Plateau | Greater Birmingham | Gulf Coastal Plain | Lower Alabama | Mobile Bay | North Alabama | Northeast Alabama | Northwest Alabama | Piedmont | Ridge and Valley | River Region | South Alabama | Tennessee Valley | Wiregrass Region
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- Berry Middle School
- Bluff Pk Elementary School
- Deer Valley Elementary School
- Green Valley Elementary School
- Gwin Elementary School
- Hoover High Freshman Ctr
- Ira F Simmons Middle School
- Rocky Ridge Elementary School
- Shades Mt Elementary School
- Trace Crossings Elementary School
- Hoover High School
- Riverchase Elementary School
- Robert F Bumpus Middle School
- South Shades Crest Elementary School
- Spain Park High School