MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama blew out 200 candles on its birthday cake Saturday, as officials and residents gathered to celebrate the state's bicentennial in Montgomery.
Gov. Kay Ivey spoke and a series of monuments picturing the state's history were unveiled in a park across the street from the state capitol.
“It’s such a brief time in the history of the world," the Republican Ivey told those gathered outside the capitol. “And yet, during these many years that parallel the life of our great state, Alabamians have been at the forefront of so many pivotal events that have shaped not only America, but also the world.”
The 16 bronze plaques, each on a base of Alabama granite, depict scenes from the state's history. State Sen. Arthur Orr, a Decatur Republican who has chaired the bicentennial celebration, said the bronze reliefs focus on ordinary people, showing “history is made every day by people like us.”
Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819. Orr noted it was not only the 200th anniversary of the state, but the 170th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the first state capitol building constructed after the seat of government moved to Montgomery from Tuscaloosa.
Orr noted that outside the second building, which stands today, Jefferson Davis took his oath of office as president of the Confederacy in 1861, George Wallace delivered an inaugural in which he proclaimed “segregation forever” in 1963, and then only two years later, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the end of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. In that speech on the back of a flatbed truck, King famously asked: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Orr said Alabama's history is “marked by much that is good, but also scarred entirely too much by that which is not.” He urged Alabamians to build on their past but not be bound by it.
“Although history shaped who we are today, it does not control our future,” Orr said. “As we begin Alabama's third century this very day, our future is in our hands.”
As part of the program, Ivey said she received a letter written by then-Gov. Albert Brewer in 1969. She said she in turn would be writing a letter to her successor in 2069 to be sealed in a new time capsule the city of Montgomery is creating
“We are continuing forward the legacy of our great state and continue to seek ways to make Alabama even better," Ivey said.
Over the prior two years, the state has held celebrations in all 67 counties. Saturday's events included a parade up Dexter Avenue featuring a bus similar to the one Rosa Parks rode on when she was arrested and sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. There also was a moon rover replica commemorating Huntsville's contributions to the space program, and a 150-member bicentennial all-star band that played a song composed for the occasion.