Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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Tuscaloosa is a city in west central Alabama in the southern United States. On the Black Warrior River, it is the seat of Tuscaloosa County6 and the fifth-largest city in the state with a population of 79,294 (2003 U.S. Census Bureau Estimate).

The city occupies a unique location at the fall line of the Black Warrior River on the boundary between the Appalachian Highland and the Gulf Coastal Plain approximately 311 km (120 mi.) upriver from the river's confluence with the Tombigbee River in Demopolis. Consequently, the geography of the area around Tuscaloosa is quite diverse, being hilly and forested to the northeast and low-lying and marshy to the southwest.

Tuscaloosa is the center of industry, commerce, healthcare, and education for the region commonly known as West Alabama. The city is home to the University of Alabama, Stillman College, and Shelton State Community College. Additionally, the city is home to the region's largest mall and hospital.

The name of the city and the river come from two Choctaw Indian words, tushka (warrior) and lusa (black). It is assumed that the city received its name from the Choctaw chief Tascaluza/Tuskalusa, who was defeated by Hernando de Soto in 1540 in the Battle of Mauvila.


Demographics and Geography

Location of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The Black Warrior River at Tuscaloosa in 2004
The Black Warrior River at Tuscaloosa in 2004

Tuscaloosa is located at 33°12'24" North, 87°32'5" West (33.206540, 87.534607)1.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 172.8 km² (66.7 mi²). 145.7 km² (56.2 mi²) of it is land and 27.1 km² (10.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 15.68% water. The population of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Tuscaloosa, Hale, and Greene counties is 194,665 and the population of the city is 79,294 (2003 Census Estimate)

As of the census2 of 2000 there are 77,906 people, 31,381 households, and 16,945 families residing in the city. The population density is 534.8/km² (1,385.2/mi²). There are 34,857 housing units at an average density of 239.3/km² (619.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 54.09% White, 42.73% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.49% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.63% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. 1.40% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 31,381 households out of which 23.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.0% are married couples living together, 15.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% are non-families. 35.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.22 and the average family size is 2.93.

In the city the population is spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 24.5% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $27,731, and the median income for a family is $41,753. Males have a median income of $31,614 versus $24,507 for females. The per capita income for the city is $19,129. 23.6% of the population and 14.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 25.3% of those under the age of 18 and 13.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Tuscaloosa boasts a highly diversied economy. Approximately twenty-seven percent of the workplace is employed by government, which includes major health care and education related employment; twenty-two percent in retail and wholesale trade; sixteen percent in manufacturing; nineteen percent in services; and the balance of the workforce spread among construction, transportation, finance, insurance, real estate and public services. As a consequence of its diverse econonmy, Tuscaloosa has a very low rate of unemployment, one of the lowest in Alabama at around 3%.

The city's industrial base includes Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Manufacturing (a division of Michelin), JVC America [1], Phifer Wire Products, Gulf States Paper Corporation, and the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., assembly plant [2], which began assembling the Mercedes-Benz M-Class in 1997 and will begin assembling the R-Class Grand Sport Tourer, and its associated supplier plants.

Healthcare and education serve as the cornerstone of Tuscaloosa's service sector, which includes the University of Alabama, DCH Regional Medical Center, Bryce State Mental Hospital, Camp Partlow State Development Center, and the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

The city is home to the region's two largest malls, University Mall and McFarland Mall, as a well as large array of retail outlets and a 16-screen movie theater.


Tuscaloosa lies at the intersection of three federal highways (US 11, US 43, and US 82) and Interstate 20/59. Additionally, barge traffic routinely transports goods along the Black Warrior River from Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to the Alabama State Docks at Mobile.

Amtrak's Crescent line connects Tuscaloosa by rail to major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 2105 Greensboro Avenue.


Bryce Hospital, 1861, Tuscaloosa
Bryce Hospital, 1861, Tuscaloosa

The area at the fall line of what would be later known as the Black Warrior River had long been well known to the various Indian tribes whose shifting fortunes brought them to West Alabama. The river shoals at Tuscaloosa represented the southernmost site on the river which could be forded under most conditions. Inevitably, a network of Indian trails converged upon the place, the same network which, in the first years of the 19th Century began to lead a few intrepid white frontiersmen to the area.

The pace of white settlement increased greatly after the War of 1812, and a small assortment of log cabins soon arose near the large Creek village at the fall line of the river, which the settlers named in honor of the legendary Chief Tuskalusa. In 1817, Alabama became a territory, and on December 13, 1819, the territorial legislature incorporated the town of Tuscaloosa, exactly one day before Congress admitted Alabama to the Union as a state.

From 1826 to 1846 Tuscaloosa was the capital of Alabama. During this period, in 1831, the University of Alabama was established. The town's population and economy grew rapidly until the departure of the capital to Montgomery caused a rapid decline in population. Establishment of the Bryce State Hospital for the Insane in Tuscaloosa in the 1850s helped restore the city's fortunes. During the Civil War following Alabama's secession from the Union, several thousand men from Tuscaloosa fought in the Confederate armies. During the last weeks of the War, a brigade of Union troops raiding the city burned the campus of the University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, too, suffered much damage from the battle and shared fully in the South's economic sufferings which followed the defeat.

The construction of a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890s opened up an inexpensive link to the Gulf seaport of Mobile, stimulating especially the mining and metallurgical industries of the region. By the advent of the 20th Century, the growth of the University of Alabama and the mental healthcare facilities in the city, along with strong national economy fueled a steady growth in Tuscaloosa which continued unabated for 100 years. Manufacturing plants of large firms such as Michelin and JVC located in town during the latter half of the 20th Century. However, it was the announcement of the addition of the Mercedes facility in 1993 that best personifed the new era of economic prosperity for Tuscaloosa.

Points of interest

External links

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