Birmingham, Alabama is a center point for a variety of historical and political events. This area was a part of the confederacy in the Civil War and was a hot spot for racial conflict, segregation, and slavery. It is becoming a new place regardless of the darker history, which poses the question of what the political leanings of Birmingham Alabama are today.
Although Alabama is viewed as strongly conservative, Birmingham, Alabama is no longer as strongly conservative as it was in the past. In the past few elections, the inner parts of Birmingham have voted for the democratic party and the citizens tend to be moderately liberal.
With this in mind, it is important to consider the different factors that go into how city votes, such as the political history of the city, whether the views of the citizens are changing or not, if the demographics of the city have impacted voting, and if political leaning has a lasting impact on the culture and how people interact with each other.
The Political History of Birmingham, Alabama
The political background of Birmingham, Alabama is intense and deeply rooted in the culture of the people. Birmingham was first settled by veterans who had served under Andrew Jackson in the battle against the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend.
At first, it remained small due to a lack of transportation from other areas in the state. Once railroads began to become more common, the city began to be established due to rich mineral deposits. There were many different events that impacted the early development of Birmingham, such as a cholera outbreak and mines being created.
Another pivotal event that happened and impacted Birmingham’s political history was an influx of people moving there later on. Specifically, African Americans began to move to Birmingham to escape their past of being slaves and sharecroppers on farms owned by white people.
This led to a majority of the Birmingham population being of African American ancestry, all of whom were impacted by segregation laws. Segregation laws were problematic but not nearly as problematic as the prejudice and racist views held by many there.
In fact, Birmingham used to be nicknamed, “Bombingham” due to a large number of unsolved bombings of black homes. Hate crimes and general hate of segregation laws grew, and Birmingham soon became a center for the Civil Rights Movement.
There were many pivotal events that happened in Birmingham that eventually led to greater equality between African Americans and white people, such as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. and increased violence towards protestors and African Americans. Some large examples of violence toward civil rights protestors are the Birmingham Campaign and the Bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
One of the most notable protests was the Children’s Crusade. On May 2nd, hundreds of children left the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and began to nonviolently protest against segregation. Hundreds of children were arrested for protesting. The next day, the Commissioner told police in the area to arrest the children, fight using water cannons, beat them with batons, and even use canine officers to threaten them. When word of this event spread out, many were livid.
This singular event would lead to negotiation on May 10th, where they decided to take away segregation signs off of water fountains, several other rights were restored, and protestors were freed.
After a lot of hardship, protesting, and civil dispute, eventually the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and segregation ended. There was also an act called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made voting easier and more equal. In 1979, Birmingham had their first black major.
All of these experiences have had an impact on how the people viewed the government and the rights of citizens. In previous elections after Reconstruction and before the 1960s, Alabama often voted for democratic candidates, as the democratic party held more conservative views. After the 1950s is when the majority of people in Alabama started to vote for Republicans.
Is Birmingham More Liberal or Conservative than in the Past?
With this kind of political history, it was clear that in the past Birmingham and Alabama, in general, had more conservative views. However, the dynamic in Birmingham has drastically shifted in recent years to be more liberal in nature.
From 2008 until 2022, Jefferson County (the county Birmingham is a part of) has voted for Democratic candidates in presidential elections. It is estimated that 55.8% of people in Jefferson County voted for the democratic candidate, 42.6% voted for the Republican candidate, and 1.6% voted for the independent candidate.
Others argue that Birmingham is still conservative, just less conservative than before. Political maps of the Birmingham area show that inner Birmingham is moderate to strongly liberal and tends to become more conservative the further a person gets from Birmingham.
From my experiences living in the Birmingham area and living in the Mobile, Alabama area, I would agree with this assessment. When I was in Birmingham, it was more common to see democratic views being shared, such as LGBTQ+ rights/equal housing, Black Lives Matter campaigns, and other events.
When I lived in the Mobile area, it was much more common to see Trump Flags and Confederate flags on people’s lawns and on their trucks. It was intriguing to see the stark difference in politics over just a few hours of driving. Even in daily conversations, it became apparent which way people leaned politically.
Has Birmingham’s Demographics Impacted Voting?
The next big question that needs to be discussed is why the votes have shifted from being mostly conservative to being liberal. A possible factor worth considering is the change in the demographic of people living in Birmingham. Birmingham has become a thriving city known for its world-class medical center at UAB hospital and is considered a hotspot for biochemistry and technological advancement.
This would ultimately attract different groups of people than in years previous. In the past, people were drawn to Birmingham for the mines, mineral resources, and transportation. These people were people who thrived with hard manual labor and were possibly not the most educated. Now, people are drawn to Birmingham for different reasons. Education levels are increasing, minority levels are rising, and the interests and values of the people are evolving.
It has been shown that people who are higher educated, are women, or are younger people tend to have more liberal views than others. In Birmingham, about 29.76% of people have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, 51% of the population are women, and the median age of people in Birmingham is 39.1. All of these factors would support the liberal shift in voting.
Are Birmingham Residents Nice to Those of Differing Views?
This final question is probably the most important question because it is the one that really matters. Of course, it is nice to be around people with similar values, but it is enriching and educational to be around people with differing views.
I looked at a public forum to see what others felt about the social aspect of politics within Birmingham. Many people remarked that out of all of Alabama, Birmingham would be the place they considered the safest and most accommodating place to live for people with liberal views.
In my experience living in Birmingham, Alabama I would agree with that assessment. People are generally kind, respectful, and willing to make new friends even with those of differing views. This city is wonderful because there is a variety of ways to get to know people and learn about the history of the area, such as the variety of parks and hikes on the outskirts and the restaurants and bars in the downtown area.
People definitely show their political beliefs and are more than willing to share their opinions. Often, it is a common topic of conversation that is had between neighbors, friends, congregations, and families. The way people communicate in this area can be considered bold for those not used to a southern lifestyle. They will tell you exactly what they feel about a subject without too much concern for being neutral to spare another person’s feelings.
However, they expect and can handle boldness in return. Honesty is a highly valued trait in Alabama. Most would value a completely candid conversation, even though interpersonal skills and experiences in other parts of the United States would suggest talking neutrally is the way to go.
Usually, as long as individuals are willing to hear each other out, politics is a manageable and enlightening topic of conversation. It would not be wise to debate politics as a way of convincing other people to change their views, as people tend to be more stubborn and devoted to previous beliefs.
Considering all of these different factors and questions, it is clear that Birmingham is more liberal than conservative. This political leaning is starkly different than it would have been in the past due to a variety of factors. If someone is looking to live in a city that is moderately liberal with decent people, Birmingham, Alabama would be the place to live!