"Magic City" and More
Sitting at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains is the prominent area of Jefferson County, Alabama. This diverse community encompasses 680 municipalities that stretch North of Morris to South of Hoover, West of Concord past Center Point in the East, with Birmingham as the county seat. Birmingham is often referred to as "Magic City."
Named for Thomas Jefferson in 1819, Jefferson County was the beginning of a long history of an industrial revolution that helped the state gain in population, manufacturing, and diversity. Today, Jefferson County has a population of 658,573 that includes an array of ethnic backgrounds, including Caucasian, African American, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic. It is also the site of many historical events in the civil rights movement.
Overcoming the Past and Building on the Future
The Jefferson County area was born from its natural source of coal, limestone, and iron ore used in the production of iron and steel. Birmingham was the first city to emerge during these early years, and through migration and annexation, the area continued to grow. With the addition of new jobs, land, and railroads, Jefferson County attracted rural migrants and European immigrants searching for a new opportunity.
The Great Depression took a toll on this area, and businesses struggled to survive. Becoming politically underrepresented, politics got in the way of growth, taking a toll on the community and the economy. This led to the iron and steel mills closing.
During this time, a new era began to emerge. The area became a hotbed for manufacturing, healthcare, and engineering. As the community started to build on its new strengths, it rose to combat racial inequalities, integration, and civil rights. Facing many other economic and social challenges, Jefferson County has become a place that embraces its past and engages in its future. There is an array of educational opportunities, arts, music, and diversity that make this area a special place to visit or call home.
Mountains, Valleys, Cities, and Beyond
Being the fifth largest county in the state allows for a more diverse geographic area, and Jefferson County does not fail in this area. Jefferson County is known for its various mountains and valley that make it a beautiful scenic place that attracts people from all over. It is located in the north-central part of Alabama and sits at the bottom of the Appalachian Mountains. The county covers about 1,111 square miles of land and has a range of rivers, lakes, and other water sources throughout the county. Some of the significant rivers located within the county include Black Warrior River, Cahaba River, and Shades Creek. Many other water sources provide a variety of charming landscapes and recreational opportunities.
The County sits on rich soil that houses resources that include iron, coal, and limestone. The highest area of Jefferson County is Shades Mountain, at 1,150 feet. The bordering counties are Blount County to the north, St. Clair County in the east, Bibb County at the south, and Tuscaloosa County to the west.
The Diverse Makeup of Jefferson County
In July 2019, the US Census reported there were 658,573 people, 261,231 households, and an average of 2.47 persons per household. The average household income was $53,901 per year, with 16.2 percent of the people living in poverty. Ninety percent of the people living in Jefferson County have a high school diploma, with thirty-three percent having a bachelor's degree or higher.
The racial makeup of Jefferson County was 53.1% White, 43.5% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.1% Hispanic or Latino, and 1.3% from two or more races. The county is comprised of about 52% women, and 22.8% of the population are children under the age of eighteen.
Changing to Meet the Needs of the Times
Farming was an essential piece of the economy for Jefferson County for most of its existence. Some of the agricultural products were cotton, corn, wheat, and peanuts. The mineral-rich soil provided an ideal area for agriculture to flourish. Over time, the county became a leading supplier of iron and steel, which began to shift the economy from farming to industrial. This also helped the area begin to grow its transportation systems by building more railway and roads.
The economy did struggle in 2011 when it had to declare bankruptcy due to corrupt politicians. Jefferson County overcame this setback in 2013 when it emerged from bankruptcy and continued growing socially and economically.
Today, Jefferson County, Alabama's top employers are in the healthcare and social assistance fields, followed by retail and manufacturing. Many residents choose occupations in mining, quarrying, oil, utilities, and other professional services because these areas are the most competitive paying industries in this region, with average salaries that range from $62,101 to $75,164 annually.
What to Do in Jefferson County, Alabama
The Jefferson County area has played a significant role in many civil rights historical events. Many people come to this area to become immersed in these events' remembrance and learn more about how this county's role helped diversify America, making it a better place for all. Some of the sights include Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the Civil Rights Museum, the West Jefferson Pioneer Homes, and the Birmingham Civil Rights District.
Aside from its historical attraction, Jefferson County has many recreational opportunities too. Some of the most popular places for animal and nature lovers include the Birmingham Zoo, Oak Mountain State Park, Ruffner Mountain, and the Alabama Wildlife Center. There are also various golf courses, parks, and gardens that make Jefferson County a must-see for all.