At my high school, we all went to school barefoot and prayed all day. Then after school, we went fishing in the creek. Oh, also, my school was only for the white kids. The black kids went to another school down the road. For real?
For the record, I voted for Obama and am not religious and was born in Birmingham...
The campus and the area immediately around the University are very nice and pretty, and the North side of campus is against a river that has a running trail and park beside it. Downtown is nice as well, which is where most of the bars are. Near campus there are: two Thai restaurants, an Indian restaurant, two Chinese restaurants, many "Mediterranean" restaurants, a legit Middle Eastern restaurant, and many other things. McFarland (the main road) is not very pretty. It is mainly strip malls (Target, Old Navy, Starbucks, Chipotle, etc.). I have not really been anywhere else in Tuscaloosa or Northport... and you won't really as a student. Northport and the areas of Tuscaloosa I am aware of are very safe. Like, there is a ghetto, not safe area in Tuscaloosa, but I do not really know where it is. It is far from the University. I'm pretty sure that 10 miles away from Tuscaloosa the country starts... or at least what I consider country. Most of Northport is very, very spread out.
There are very few crimes near campus, and most are alcohol related... (Girl walking home by herself in dark alley late at night got mugged recently... Stuff like that.) There have really only been a couple crimes (mugging, etc.) reported each year I have been here. When something happens, everyone hears about it, so I'm pretty sure there weren't really more violent crimes. There are certain apartment complexes that are better than others, especially for undergrad. I would pick one that has automatically locking locks if you sometimes forget to lock your door. There have been a lot of thefts recently in apartment complexes where people have forgotten to lock their doors, etc.
Tuscaloosa is a college town. Life revolves around the University... No one is going to tell you it is NYC, but I mean to be honest, when you are in school, it is probably better to go somewhere with less distractions. It's also very, very cheap. I had a wonderful four years there.
Birmingham is more like an hour. At least from where you live in ttown to downtown. Birmingham has 1.2 mil in the metro area... and has pretty much everything that a city of comparable size has, and as someone who lived a summer in DC, the music scene is a whole lot better in Birmingham(look specifically at Workplay and Bottletree). I tend to only go to like two bars in Birmingham that I really like... (J Clyde and Blue Monkey), so I can't really speak much to that. There are not very many dance clubs. Most major art exhibitions and tours of musicians, theatre, etc. come to Birmingham. Four of the finalists for the James Beard Award this year were chefs in Birmingham. The vast majority of the city/suburbs are gorgeous. If you want shopping, we have the Summit (http://www.thesummitonline.com/birmingham/
)... Jefferson County went blue in the last election. There are gay bars... a Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters... Some of the best public schools in the country. I think I've hit most major points on culture. If you want a good sample of things going on in the ham (http://www.bwcitypaper.com/
And lastly, in case this was too hard, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham,_Alabama
and for Huntsville, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntsville,_Alabama