Here is a trivia question for you...Name the cities in the United States with a population of 1 million or more that did not exist during the Civil War....You guessed it - Birmingham.  If you ever see a map of the U.S. that predates 1870 and you look in North Central Alabama - you won't see anything, because this city simply wasn't there. 

Birmingham has had several nicknames during its history and one of them is "The Magic City".  This nickname resulted from the explosive growth Birmingham experienced from its founding in 1871 up until the Great Depression.  Industrialists discoved that the three ingredients needed to make steel were all present in the hills and mountains surrounding the city, therefore there was no need to go anywhere else to make the shiny stuff.  As a result, Birmingham 'grew like magic' and got the moniker "Magic City" from this growth.  As with many cities during this time of great European immigration, Birmingham was rapidly populated with citizens from Italy, Greece, Ireland and Germany.  Descendants of these immigrants, along with an active Jewish community consitutute many of our current leaders.  Also as a result of the dominance of the steel industry during the first half of the 20th century, Birmingham also was known as the "Pittsburgh of the South".

The city is well known for its role in the Civil Rights movement of the 50's and 60's.  A small group of racist leaders imposed unfair practices against people of color and the city's police department was lead by one of the worst of them all - Bull Connor.  As a result of this, Reverend Martin Luther King chose Birmingham as a primary staging ground for protests which became known worldwide. Today, this Civil Rights struggle is commemorated and memoralized by The Civil Rights Museum which protrays the struggle of American blacks to achieve social, economic and political equality in the United States.

Ironically, Birmingham's current leadership is dominated by Afro-Americans including a black mayor (Bernard Kincaid) and a black Police chief (Annetta Nunn).  In this regard, Afro-Americans have completed the circle by leading the city forward into the 21st century.

The Birmingham metro area has a population of approximately 1.1 million people in seven counties.  Of this total metro population, only 25% (240,000) live within the city limits.  Therefore, the vast majority of residents who call Birmingham home, do not actually reside in the city, but live in one of dozens of surburban communities scattered throughout the area. 

These suburban communities are a tremendous asset to the metro area and have some of the finest public schools in the United States.  In many American cities where the only option available to get a good quality education is expensive private schools, Birmingham's suburbs offer educational quality that rivals some of America's best private prep schools.  These communities include Mountain Brook, Vestavia, Homewood and Hoover.  Look at some of these websites to get an idea of of the SAT scores and college choices made by their graduates. Mountain Brook:  http://www.mtnbrook.k12.al.us/archive... .  Vestavia:  http://www.vestavia.k12.al.us/high/in...  Homewood: http://pandora.hhs.homewood.k12.al.us...   Additionally the Jefferson County's Shades Valley International Baccalaureate School was recently named the #1 High School in the United States by Newsweek magazine.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7761678/s... The Alabama School of Fine Arts also made this list at #61.

Today Birmingham's traditional heavy industrial economy is a thing of the past.  While several of these industries still exist in the area, the city's employment is dominated by large regional banks, Bellsouth Corporation (6000 employees) , UAB Medical Center and many large contruction and engineering firms.  Construction and engineering firms headquartered in the city generated over $4 billion in worldwide contracts in 2005.  Also one of the nation's largest and most successful magazines, Southern Living has made Birmingham its own for decades.  The UAB Medical Center ranks in the top 25 in the U.S. in federally funded medical research and the Southern Research Institute is one of the largest, research-for-hire laboratories in the world.  Additionally worldwide automobile manufacturers Mercedes Benz and Honda employ approximately 8000 people in manufacturing facilities located approximately 35 miles on either side of the city.

 Fine quality public schools, a low cost of living, an excellent climate and good cultural institutions like the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra make the Birmingham area a great place to live.