Birmingham has come a long way since the 1960s, when the civil rights struggles erupted in bombings, riots, and arrests that drew international attention to this city in north-central Alabama. The pioneer farm settlement of the mid-1850s expanded with the advent of railroads and influence of land barons that helped establish Birmingham as a city in 1871. Fueled by the area's coal, iron ore, and limestone resources, the city earned the nickname the "Magic City" for the rapidity with which Birmingham grew and prospered. Its fortunes waned with the Great Depression in the 1930s, even though the city was largely ruled by wealthy Northern industrialists.
Racial tensions exploded throughout the South during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. In Birmingham, when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, killing four innocent black girls, the city's reputation changed, earning it the derogatory nickname "Bombingham."
Today the city has preserved the painful lessons of the past in many attractions and landmarks that offer the opportunity for reconciliation and reflection. In addition to important civil rights sites, this lovely city that hugs the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains boasts both a nationally renowned art museum and a motorsports park that racing enthusiasts revere as one of the best in the country.