Montgomery is situated on a bend on the Alabama River. It was inhabited by Native Americans until French settlers built Fort Toulouse on the site in 1715. The city, named after Richard Montgomery, a general in the Revolutionary War, was established in 1819. Montgomery became the state capital in 1847.
In 1860 the Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the USA. Between election day in November and the inauguration the following March, seven states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Representatives from these seven states quickly established a new political organization, the Confederate States of America.
On 8th February the Confederate States of America adopted a constitution and within ten days had elected Jefferson Davis as its president and Alexander Stephens, as vice-president. Montgomery became its capital but was later moved to Richmond. Montgomery was finally captured by the Union Army in April, 1865.
After the American Civil War Montgomery became an important centre and market for cotton, livestock, yellow pine and hardwood. Fertilizer and furniture was also manufactured in the city.
In the 1950s and 1960s Montgomery became one of the main centres of the struggle for African American Civil Rights. In Montgomery, like most towns in the Deep South, buses were segregated. On 1st December, 1955, Rosa Parks, a middle-aged tailor's assistant, who was tired after a hard day's work, refused to give up her seat to a white man.
After the arrest of Rosa Parks, a local pastor, Martin Luther King, and his friends, Ralph David Abernathy, Edgar Nixon, and Bayard Rustin helped organize protests against bus segregation. It was decided that black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated. King was arrested and his house was fire-bombed. Others involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott also suffered from harassment and intimidation, but the protest continued.
For thirteen months the 17,000 black people in Montgomery walked to work or obtained lifts from the small car-owning black population of the city. Eventually, the loss of revenue and a decision by the Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to accept integration. and the boycott came to an end on 20th December, 1956.
In March 1965, Martin Luther King organized a protest march from Selma to Montgomery. King was not with the marchers when they were attacked by state troopers with nightsticks and tear gas. He did lead the second march but upset some of his younger followers when he turned back at the Pettus Bridge when faced by a barricade of state troopers. After the attacks on King's supporters, Lyndon Baines Johnson attempted to persuade Congress to pass his Voting Rights Act.
In 1989 Montgomery was chosen as the site for the Civil Rights Memorial. Designed by Maya Lin, the memorial honours the forty people who gave their lives between 1954 and 1968 in the fight for racial equality. Names on the memorial include Emmett Till, Herbert Lee, Medger Evers, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, Jonathan Daniels, Samuel Younge and Martin Luther King.
Montgomery covers a land area of 348.6 square km (134.6 square miles). In 1998 the population was 197,014 with 56.5 per cent being white and 42.3 per cent African American.