Tuscaloosa is the regional center of industry, commerce, healthcare, and education for the area of west-central Alabama known as West Alabama. It is the principal city of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Tuscaloosa, Hale and Pickens counties and has an estimated metro population in 2013 of 235,628. Tuscaloosa is also the home of the University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College. While the city attracted international attention when Mercedes-Benz announced it would build its first automotive assembly plant in North America in Tuscaloosa County, the University of Alabama remains the dominant economic and cultural engine in the city.
Tuskaloosa is notable for leading the Battle of Mabila at his fortified village against the Spanish conquistadorHernando de Soto. After being taken hostage by the Spanish as they passed through his territory, Tuskaloosa organized a surprise attack on his captors at Mabila, but was ultimately defeated.
Contemporary records describe the paramount chief as being very tall and well built, with some of the chroniclers saying Tuaskaloosa stood a foot and a half taller than the Spaniards. His name, derived from the western Muskogean language elements taska and losa, means "Black Warrior".
De Soto expedition
Tuskaloosa and his chiefdom are recorded in the chronicles of Hernando de Soto's expedition, which arrived in North America in 1539. De Soto had been appointed Governor of Cuba by King Carlos I of Spain, who directed him to conquer Florida, which was taken to comprise what is now the Southern United States, as adelantado. In 1539, De Soto landed near Tampa, Florida with 600-1,000 men and 200 horses and began a circuitous exploration of modern-day Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, often engaging in violent conflict with the indigenous peoples. As they traveled, the expedition kidnapped natives to act as bearers and interpreters of the many different language families (Muskogean, Yamasee, IroquoianCherokee, and others) of the Southeast. The conquistadors frequently took a local chief hostage to guarantee safe passage through his territory. By October 1540, the Expedition had reached the middle of modern-day Alabama.
Tuscaloosa is an Amtrak intercity rail station located at 2105 Greensboro Avenue one mile south of downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Currently served by The Crescent, the station was originally operated by the Southern Railway. Tuscaloosa was one of the last railroad-operated active passenger stations in the country, as the Southern Crescent, predecessor to the current Amtrak train, was still operated by the Southern well into the Amtrak era.