Montgomery, city (1990 pop. 187,106), state capital and seat of Montgomery co., E central Ala., near the head of navigation on the Alabama River just below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, and in the rich Black Belt; inc. 1819. It is an industrial city and an important market center for lumber and agricultural goods, especially livestock and dairy products. There are stockyards and meatpacking plants. Manufactures include motor vehicles and vehicle parts, commercial fertilizer, furniture, air conditioning and heating units, food items, and paper.
Montgomery became the state capital in 1847 and boomed as a river port and cotton market. The city has been called the "Cradle of the Confederacy." In the capitol building (erected 1857) the convention met (Feb., 1861) that formed the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president on the capitol steps, and the city served as the Confederate capital until the seat was moved to Richmond in May, 1861. The city was occupied by Union troops in the spring of 1865.
During the civil-rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, Montgomery was marked by demonstrations led by Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a minister there in the mid-1950s. In Dec., 1955, African Americans organized a nonviolent boycott of the segregated public bus system; by the following year a desegregation edict regarding public transportation was issued. Racial unrest ensued in the 1960s.
The city is the seat of Alabama State Univ., a campus of Auburn Univ., Southern Christian Univ., and Huntingdon College. Maxwell Air Force Base, adjoining the city on the northwest, and its Gunter Annex, on the northeast, are the home of Air Univ. In addition to the historic state capitol, points of interest in Montgomery include the "first White House of the Confederacy" (built c.1825), preserved as a Confederate museum; a planetarium; a museum of fine arts; the state archives and history museum; many antebellum homes and buildings; and the Civil Rights Memorial by Maya Lin.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.