Situated on the Alabama River in the south central part of the state, Montgomery is the capital of Alabama. It is also the seat of Montgomery County. It has a population of 195,690 (1999 est.) within the city, and 314,965 (1996 est.) in the metropolitan area. Although the city is still an economic focal point for cotton and livestock, the business of state government is now predominant. Also of economic importance are food processing and the manufacture of wood products. The city is known for its many fine antebellum houses and buildings, including the capitol with its stately white columns. Montgomery is the seat of Alabama State University (1874) and Auburn University at Montgomery (1967). Maxwell Air Force Base, the site of the Air University, and Gunter Air Force Station are nearby.


Often called the Cradle of the Confederacy, Montgomery holds a special place in the history of the South. The city was first settled in 1817, and after the state capital was moved there from Tuscaloosa in 1847, Montgomery thrived as a great cotton market and river port. In February 1861 the government of the Confederate States of America was formed there by the seven seceding states, and Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as its president on the capitol steps. The city served as the capital of the Confederacy until it was replaced by Richmond, Va., in July 1861. Federal troops occupied the city in April 1865, and recovery was slow and painful. In 1955–56 the black population, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., boycotted the city buses in a successful protest against the segregation of public transportation.