| Indigenous peoples of varying cultures lived in the area for thousands of years before European colonization. Trade with the Northeast via the Ohio River began during the Burial Mound Period (1000 BC-700 AD) and continued until European contact. The agrarian Mississippian culture covered most of the state from 1000 to 1600 AD, with one of its major centers being at the Moundville Archaeological Site in Moundville, Alabama.|
Among the historical tribes of Native American people living in the area of present-day Alabama at the time of European contact were Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee, and Muskogean Alabama (Alibamu),Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, and Mobile.
The French founded the first European settlement in the present-day state at Mobile in 1702. Southern Alabama was French from 1702 to 1763, part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1780, and part of Spanish West Florida from 1780 to 1814.
Northern and central Alabama was part of British Georgia from 1763 to 1783 and part of the United States Mississippi Territory thereafter. Statehood was delayed by the territory's lack of a coastline; when Andrew Jackson captured Spanish Mobile in 1814, he claimed that area for the US and gained passage to the gulf. Alabama was the twenty-second state, admitted to the Union in 1819. Its constitution provided for universal suffrage for white men.
Alabama was part of the new frontier in the 1820s and 1830s. Settlers rapidly arrived to take advantage of its fertile soil. Planters brought slaves with them, and traders brought in more from the Upper South as the cotton plantations expanded. The economy of the central "Black Belt" was built around large cotton plantations whose owners built their wealth on slave labor. It was named for the dark, productive soil. Elsewhere poor whites were subsistence farmers. According to the 1860 census, enslaved Africans comprised 45% of the state's population of 964,201. There were only 2,690 free persons of color.
In 1861 Alabama declared its secession from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. While few battles were fought in the state, Alabama contributed about 120,000 soldiers to the American Civil War. All the slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. During Reconstruction, the new state legislators created a public school system for the first time, as well as establishing some welfare institutions to help the people. Alabama was restored to the Union in 1868.