Football and history are two things Southerners never stop discussing, and Alabama is the perfect prism for both. It was home to one of gridiron's most legendary coaches, Paul 'Bear' Bryant, and to Jefferson Davis, the first president of the Confederacy in 1861 (the year the Civil War began).
More significantly, in the 1950s and '60s, Alabama became a civil rights battleground pitting racial segregationists against nonviolent activists who demanded freedom. The ripple effects were felt in legislation that affected the entire country, and exploring this state provides powerful insight into uniquely American racial dynamics, and the United States' checkered history as a whole.
Geographically, Alabama has a surprising diversity of landscapes, from leafy foothills in the north to the subtropical Gulf Coast down south. And let's not forget endearing Birmingham, a shining light of progress in a state that all too often seems to be shadow boxing with its own demons.