Alabama became a state of the United States of America on December 14, 1819. The United States arranged for the construction after 1830, forcibly displacing most Southeast tribes to west of the Mississippi River to what was then called Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). These actions affected the Cherokee, Creek (Muscogee), and Chickasaw, among others. After this, European-American arrived in large numbers, bringing or buying African Americans in the domestic slave trade.
In antebellum Alabama, wealthy planters created large cotton plantations based in the fertile central Black Belt of the upland region, which depended on the labor of enslaved Africans. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported to and sold in the state by slave traders who purchased them in the Upper South. In the mountains and foothills, poorer whites practiced subsistence farming. By 1860 blacks (nearly all slaves) comprised 45 percent of the state's 964,201 people.
The state's wealthy planters considered slavery essential to their economy. As one of the largest slaveholding states, Alabama was among the first six states to secede. It declared its secession in January 1861 and joined the Confederate States of America in February. During the ensuing American Civil War Alabama had moderate levels of warfare. The population suffered economic losses and hardships as a result of the war. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in Confederate states. The Southern capitulation in 1865 ended the Confederate state government. A decade of Reconstruction began, a controversial time that has a range of interpretation. Its biracial government established the first public schools and welfare institutions in the state.
After the war, planters worked to get their vast cotton plantations back into production. African Americans chose to exert some independence as free tenant farmers and sharecroppers, rather than working in labor gangs. Wherever possible, African-American women left the fields. Small farms, which produced general crops before the war, turned to cotton as a cash crop. The market for cotton was overloaded, and prices dropped 50%.
For a half century after the Civil War, Alabama was a poor, heavily rural state, with an economy based on cotton; most farmers were tenant, sharecroppers or laborers who did not own land. Reconstruction ended when Democrats, calling themselves known as "Redeemers" regained control of the state legislature by both legal and extralegal means (including violence and harassment). They established political and social dominance over African Americans. In 1901, Southern Democrats passed a state Constitution that effectively disfranchised most African Americans (who in 1900 comprised more than 45 percent of the state's population), as well as tens of thousands of poor whites. By 1941, a total 600,000 poor whites and 520,000 African Americans had been disfranchised. In addition, despite massive population changes in the state that accompanied urbanization and industrialization, the rural-dominated legislature refused to redistrict from 1901 to the 1960s, leading to massive malapportionment in Congressional and state representation. For decades, a rural minority dominated the state, and the needs of urban, middle class and industrial interests were not addressed.
African Americans living in Alabama experienced the inequities of disfranchisement, segregation, violence, and underfunded schools. Tens of thousands of African Americans from Alabama joined the Great Migration out of the South from 1915 to 1930 and moved to better opportunities in industrial cities, mostly in the North, especially the Midwest. The black exodus escalated steadily in the first three decades of the 20th century; 22,100 emigrated from 1900 to 1910; 70,800 between 1910 and 1920; and 80,700 between 1920 and 1930.