Tucked near the base of the Appalachian Mountains, at the cross-section of two major railroads, lies Birmingham, Alabama's largest city. A bustling metropolitan area with a population more than 240,000, Birmingham is also a model of Southern charm and hospitality.
This wasn't always the case. During the mid-20th century, the city was nicknamed "the Johannesburg of America," thanks to its reputation for racially motivated police brutality. In 1963, local civil rights activists, fed up with racial segregation, campaigned for equality. Their work has earned Birmingham a place in history as the birthplace of the American civil rights movement.
Birmingham is considered one of the country's most livable cities, providing a variety of homes, architectural styles, neighborhoods, and a high ratio of green space per capita. The city spans about 150 square miles and is divided into about two dozen communities. Some notable communities are:
Red Mountain is Birmingham's most upscale neighborhood featuring multi-million-dollar estates. The prominent college preparatory school Altamont is located here.
Southside encompasses the southern half of downtown Birmingham and is home to University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Huffman offers a diverse population; community life centers around the Huffman Baptist Church.
Although Birmingham was the southern United States' foremost industrial center until the Depression, iron and steel manufacturing account for only a small portion of employment today. Now, with approximately 41,000 businesses, Birmingham has transformed itself into a medical research, banking, and service-oriented economy. Some of the area's largest employers include:
Vulcan Park contains the world's largest cast-iron statue. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and craftsmanship, is considered the symbol of Birmingham due to its iron and steel manufacturing roots.
McWane Science Center is a hands-on science museum with interactive exhibits allowing participants to make animated movies, build roller coasters, and explore aquatic habitats. The facility also contains a giant dome-screened IMAX Theater.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, a defunct iron ore mine, was transformed into a nature refuge in the 1970s. Visitors can hike ten miles of trails, study rock formations and wildflowers, or turn their eyes skyward to revel in the soaring hawks overhead.
Each year, Birmingham hosts several festivals, including:
Birmingham is the cultural capital of Alabama, boasting numerous art galleries, and major ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra companies including the Alabama Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Ballet, Birmingham Concert Chorale, and Opera Birmingham.