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To many white Alabamians the Reconstruction period was tragic, but to most black Alabamians it was a period of opportunity and hope.The Huntsville asserted, “This is a white man’s government and a white man’s state,” and the Ku Klux Klan used terror to enforce that view. Visible traces of their occupancy, which spanned nearly 10,000 years, may be seen at Dust Cave, a Paleo-Indian site; at Russell Cave, a site dating to the Archaic period; and at Moundsville, a Mississippian site nestled in a series of large mounds that snake across the land.Many place-names in the state are of Native American origin, including the name Alabama itself, which derives from a word that perhaps means “thicket clearers.” The principal indigenous groups at the time of the initial European exploration of the region were the Chickasaw, in the northwest; the Cherokee, in the northeastern uplands; the Upper Creek, or Muskogee, in the centre and southeast; and the Choctaw, in the southwest.Then, in 1813, the United States, claiming Mobile as a part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, drove the Spanish out of the area and established authority throughout the state.In the meantime, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw had ceded some land by 1806. Andrew Jackson inflicted a decisive defeat on the Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Railroads, cotton manufacturing, and some mining were begun, though such efforts often suffered from a shortage of capital.

Until the Civil War, domestic politics centred on land policy, the banking system, the question of slavery, and the removal of indigenous peoples.

The state suffered severely for almost a decade in the economic depression that followed the panic of 1837 financial crisis.

Although the black contingent participated in the constitutional conventions and in the state legislatures, its political power was not as strong as that of its counterparts in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

In 1874 the white Democrats of Alabama, most of whom had been supporters of the Confederacy, regained control of the state political machinery.