The city of Birmingham is entirely a product of the post-Civil War period. It was established on June 1, 1871, as the anticipated intersection of the North & South and Alabama & Chattanooga railroads. Nearby mineral deposits of iron ore, limestone, and coal made Birmingham a natural location for iron smelting. Birmingham is located along Highway 119* near Alabaster and Clanton. It also is situated between Pell City and Atlanta, Georgia on Interstate 20.
One of Birmingham's most famous landmarks is Vulcan, the 55-foot cast-iron statue that symbolized Birmingham's steel industry at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. Recently refurbished and located in its own park, Vulcan is the second-tallest metal statute in America, after the Statue of Liberty.
In opposition to the adoption of some controversial civil rights planks at the Democratic National Convention of 1948, 35 southern Democrats left the party to form what became known as the Dixiecrats. Meeting in Birmingham, the Dixiecrats nominated South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond as their presidential candidate, and Mississippi governor Field J. Wright, as their vice-presidential nominee. The party platform represented the openly racist views of most white southerners of the time. It opposed abolition of the poll tax while endorsing segregation and the "racial integrity" of each race.
In the November election, Thurmond carried the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Although Thurmond did not win the election, he received more than a million popular votes and 39 electoral votes.
Birmingham experienced social upheavals during the Civil Rights Movement. Many people became acutely aware of the city when they saw images of police chief Bull Connor dispersing black protesters with high-pressure fire hoses in 1962. The city's notoriety was reinforced by the infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, in which three black girls were killed by the Ku Klux Klan. None of the instigators of the bombing was brought to justice until 2002, when then 71-year-old Bobby Cherry was convicted of murder.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham began as an extension of the university's School of Medicine until its relocation from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in 1945. Owing to rapid growth of the Birmingham area, it was necessary that an extension program was needed for students who could not study in Tuscaloosa.
As Birmingham's position as a steel producer declined during the latter part of the 20th Century, diversified manufacturing and services grew to replace it. Today, the university is the city's largest employer.