“Alabama Fever,” was a term used to describe the frenzy for land claims in what was then the Mississippi Territory in the wake of land cessions by the Creek Indians. This opened up much of present-day central Alabama to white settlers in search of fertile cotton land, expanding the South’s cotton economy and dependence on slavery. The Alabama Territory was created in 1817.

The driving force behind Alabama Fever was the global demand for cotton cultivation stimulated by new industrial textile manufacturing processes. The expression “Alabama Fever” has also been used by historians to describe the broader phenomenon of the expansion of the cotton frontier before 1860, from the seaboard states to Alabama and Mississippi and onward to northern Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. The establishment of cotton plantations in Alabama and the region as a whole transformed and expanded the global economy, producing unprecedented wealth in combination with the northern and European textile industry. In political terms, the emergence of the Deep South as an economic force increased the clout of slave states in the federal government, intensifying the hostilities that resulted in the Civil War.

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Photos courtesy of: Library of Congress

Encyclopedia of Alabama