Alabama's 7th Congressional District was first created in 1843 and has existed since then with the exception of the years 1867-1873. The area this district has represented in the state has changed over time, depending upon the number of U.S. Representatives apportioned to Alabama. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the district included the city of Gadsden. Over time, this shifted to cover the area around Tuscaloosa. The last two representative for the district before its reconfiguration into majority-minority — Richard Shelby (now Alabama's senior senator) and Claude Harris — were Tuscaloosa residents.
The current shape of the district was largely formed in 1992 when it was reconstituted as a majority-minority district under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1982 to include greater representation for minorities in Congress. Half of the western Alabama portion of the district was moved to the 4th district, and a large portion of Tuscaloosa County was moved into the 6th district, which had primarily been based around Birmingham. To counter the loss in population and to create the minority majority, many counties from the Black Belt region, a rural expanse in Alabama and former home to the state's once-flourishing cotton plantations, were added to the district, as was as an arm extending from Tuscaloosa roughly along the Interstate Highway 20/59 corridor into Jefferson County all the way to inner city Birmingham. This resulted in two districts that were centered around Birmingham in terms of population (the 6th and the 7th), effectively disenfranchising Tuscaloosa from congressional representation. The three representatives elected from the district following reconfiguration — Earl F. Hilliard, Artur Davis and Terri Sewell — have been from Birmingham.
Mostly minor changes in the following two redistrictings have left the district in fairly the same shape, with the major exception being the addition of western portions of Montgomery County, including large swaths of inner-city Montgomery in the redistricting following the 2010 census. Presently, the district contains heavily urban areas in Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa and ten of the fourteen counties in the Black Belt. Three of the state's largest colleges are located in the district: Alabama State University in Montgomery, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.