Alabama, state, United States: The Integration Years to the Present

The Integration Years to the Present

In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision ruling racial segregation in public elementary and secondary schools unconstitutional, and the decision was followed by an intensification of racial tension (see integration). Alabama has witnessed many civil-rights protests, including a year-long black boycott of public buses in Montgomery in 1955–56 to protest segregated seating and a Freedom March from Montgomery to Selma led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

George C. Wallace, a Democrat elected governor in 1962, fought the federally ordered integration of schools in Alabama. He was reelected three times: 1970, 1974, and 1982, the final time with substantial African-American support. In 1968 he entered the U.S. presidential race as the candidate of the American Independent party. He ran for the presidency twice more—in 1972 and 1976.

Since the late 1970s, public attention has largely shifted to economic issues, and major efforts have been made to achieve growth by encouraging further diversification of manufacturing industries. A notable success in this campaign was the building by Mercedes-Benz of auto assembly plant in Alabama. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, connecting the port of Mobile with the industries that have developed in N Alabama and elsewhere along the Tennessee, opened in 1985. In 1995 Hurricane Opal caused extensive damage in Alabama as far north as Montgomery, and parts of the state suffered again in 2004 from Hurricane Ivan and in 2005 from Katrina.

In 1986, Harold Guy Hunt (1987-1993) became the first Republican to be elected Albama's governor in over a century. Since then, the two parties have vied for control over the state's highest office. In 1998, Democrat Don Siegelman was elected governor, but he narrowly lost the office to Republican Bob Riley (2002-10). Robert Bentley (2010-17), a Republican, was elected to succeed Riley, but resigned in 2017 amid ethics and criminal investigations arising from an extramarital affair; Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey succeeded him, and was elected to the office in 2018. Although generally supporting conservative issues, Ivey has been an outspoken critic of those who have opposed COVID-19 restrictions and taking the vaccine.

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