|State of Mississippi|
|Nickname(s): "The Magnolia State", "The Hospitality State"|
|Motto(s): 'Virtute et Armis'|
(and largest city)
|- Total||48,430 sq mi
|- Width||170 miles (275 km)|
|- Length||340 miles (545 km)|
|- % water||3%|
|- Latitude||30° 12′ N to 35° N|
|- Longitude||88° 06′ W to 91° 39′ W|
|Number of people||Ranked 32nd|
|- Total||2,992,333 (2015 est)|
|- Density||63.5/sq mi (24.5/km2)
|- Average income||$40,037 (51st)|
|Height above sea level|
|- Highest point||Woodall Mountain
807 ft (246.0 m)
|- Average||300 ft (90 m)|
|- Lowest point||Gulf of Mexico
|Became part of the U.S.||December 10, 1817 (20th)|
|Governor||Phil Bryant (R)|
|Time zone||Central: UTC −6/−5|
|Abbreviations||MS, Miss. US-MS|
|The Flag of Mississippi.|
|The Seal of Mississippi.|
|Mammal(s)||White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)|
|Colors||red and blue|
|Slogan(s)||First Flight (unofficial)|
|Released in 2002|
|Lists of United States state insignia|
The state has a population of approximately 3 million. Located in the center of the state, Jackson is the state capital and largest city, with a population of approximately 175,000 people.
The state is heavily forested outside of the Mississippi Delta area, between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Before the American Civil War, most development in the state was along riverfronts, where slaves worked on cotton plantations. After the war, the bottomlands to the interior were cleared, mostly by freedmen. By the end of the 19th century, African Americans made up two-thirds of the Delta's property owners, but timber and railroad companies acquired much of the land after a financial crisis.
- In popular culture
- Images for kids
The state's name is derived from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary. Settlers named it after the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi ("Great River").
Mississippi is bordered on the north by Tennessee, on the east by Alabama, on the south by Louisiana and a narrow coast on the Gulf of Mexico; and on the west, across the Mississippi River, by Louisiana and Arkansas.
In addition to its namesake, major rivers in Mississippi include the Big Black River, the Pearl River, the Yazoo River, the Pascagoula River, and the Tombigbee River. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoir, Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake, and Grenada Lake with the largest lake being Sardis Lake.
Mississippi is entirely composed of lowlands, the highest point being Woodall Mountain, in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, 807 feet (246 m) above sea level. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulf coast. The state's mean elevation is 300 feet (91 m) above sea level.
Most of Mississippi is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain. The coastal plain is generally composed of low hills, such as the Pine Hills in the south and the North Central Hills. The Pontotoc Ridge and the Fall Line Hills in the northeast have somewhat higher elevations. Yellow-brown loess soil is found in the western parts of the state. The northeast is a region of fertile black earth that extends into the Alabama Black Belt.
The coastline includes large bays at Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico proper by the shallow Mississippi Sound, which is partially sheltered by Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, East and West Ship Islands, Deer Island, Round Island, and Cat Island.
The northwest remainder of the state consists of the Mississippi Delta, a section of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The plain is narrow in the south and widens north of Vicksburg. The region has rich soil, partly made up of silt which had been regularly deposited by the flood waters of the Mississippi River.
Major cities and towns
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 20,000 but fewer than 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
- Southaven (48,982)
- Hattiesburg (45,989)
- Biloxi (44,054)
- Vicksburg (42,856)
- Meridian (41,198)
- Tupelo (34,546)
- Greenville (34,400)
- Olive Branch (33,484)
- Horn Lake (26,066)
- Clinton (25,216)
- Pearl (25,092)
- Madison (24,149)
- Ridgeland (24,047)
- Starkville (23,888)
- Columbus (23,604)
- Pascagoula (22,392)
- Brandon (21,705)
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 10,000 but fewer than 20,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
- Oxford (18,916)
- Gautier (18,572)
- Laurel (18,540)
- Clarksdale (17,962)
- Ocean Springs (17,461)
- Natchez (15,792)
- Greenwood (15,205)
- Long Beach (14,792)
- Corinth (14,573)
- Hernando (14,090)
- Moss Point (13,704)
- Canton (13,189)
- Grenada (13,092)
- McComb (12,790)
- Brookhaven (12,513)
- Cleveland (12,334)
- Byram (11,489)
- Yazoo City (11,403)
- West Point (11,307)
- Picayune (10,878)
- Indianola (10,683)
- Petal (10,454)
Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate with long summers and short, mild winters.
The late summer and fall is the seasonal period of risk for hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the southern part of the state. Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed 238 people in the state, were the most devastating hurricanes to hit the state. Both caused nearly total storm surge destruction of structures in and around Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula.
As in the rest of the Deep South, thunderstorms are common in Mississippi, especially in the southern part of the state. On average, Mississippi has around 27 tornadoes annually; the northern part of the state has more tornadoes earlier in the year and the southern part a higher frequency later in the year. Two of the five deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history have occurred in the state. These storms struck Natchez, in southwest Mississippi (see The Great Natchez Tornado) and Tupelo, in the northeast corner of the state. About seven F5 tornadoes have been recorded in the state.
Due to seasonal flooding, possible from December to June, the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers and their tributaries created a fertile floodplain in the Mississippi Delta. The river's flooding created natural levees, which planters had built higher to try to prevent flooding of land cultivated for cotton crops. Temporary workers built levees along the Mississippi River on top of the natural levees that formed from dirt deposited after the river flooded.
From 1858 to 1861, the state took over levee building, accomplishing it through contractors and hired labor. In those years, planters considered their slaves too valuable to hire out for such dangerous work. Contractors hired gangs of Irish immigrant laborers to build levees and sometimes clear land. Many of the Irish were relatively recent immigrants from the famine years who were struggling to get established. Before the American Civil War, the earthwork levees averaged six feet in height, although in some areas they reached twenty feet.
Flooding has been an integral part of Mississippi history.
Even as scientific knowledge about the Mississippi River has grown, upstream development and the consequences of the levees have caused more severe flooding in some years. Scientists now understand that the widespread clearing of land and building of the levees have changed the nature of the river. Such work removed the natural protection and absorption of wetlands and forest cover, strengthening the river's current. The state and federal governments have been struggling for the best approaches to restore some natural habitats in order to best interact with the original riverine ecology.
Near 10,000 BC Native Americans or Paleo-Indians arrived in what today is referred to as the American South. Paleoindians in the South were hunter-gatherers who pursued the megafauna that became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. In the Mississippi Delta, Native American settlements and agricultural fields were developed on the natural levees, higher ground in the proximity of rivers. The Native Americans developed extensive fields near their permanent villages. Together with other practices, they created some localized deforestation but did not alter the ecology of the Mississippi Delta as a whole.
The first major European expedition into the territory that became Mississippi was that of the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, who passed through the northeast part of the state in 1540, in his second expedition to the New World.
In April 1699, French colonists established the first European settlement at Fort Maurepas (also known as Old Biloxi), built in the vicinity of present-day Ocean Springs on the Gulf Coast.
In 1716, the French founded Natchez on the Mississippi River (as Fort Rosalie); it became the dominant town and trading post of the area. The French called the greater territory "New France"; the Spanish continued to claim part of the Gulf coast area (east of Mobile Bay) of present-day southern Alabama, in addition to the entire area of present-day Florida.
Through the eighteenth century, the area was ruled variously by Spanish, French, and British colonial governments. The colonists imported African slaves as laborers.
After Great Britain's victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the French surrendered the Mississippi area to them under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763). They also ceded their areas to the north that were east of the Mississippi River, including the Illinois Country and Quebec.
United States territory
After the American Revolution, Britain ceded this area to the new United States of America. The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina to the United States.
From 1800 to about 1830, the United States purchased some lands (Treaty of Doak's Stand) from Native American tribes for new settlements of European Americans. On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed between the U.S. Government and the Choctaw. The Choctaw agreed to sell their traditional homelands in Mississippi and Alabama, for compensation and removal to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
Article 14 in the treaty allowed those Choctaw who chose to remain in the state to become U.S. citizens, the second major non-European ethnic group to do so (the Cherokee were the first). Today approximately 9,500 Choctaw live in Neshoba, Newton, Leake, and Jones counties. Federally recognized tribes include the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Many slaveholders brought slaves with them or purchased them through the domestic slave trade, especially in New Orleans. Through the trade, nearly one million slaves were transported to the Deep South, including Mississippi, in a forced internal migration that broke up many slave families of the Upper South, where planters were selling excess slaves. The Southerners imposed slave laws and restricted the rights of free blacks, according to their view of white supremacy .
On December 10, 1817, Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union.
Plantations were developed primarily along the major rivers, where the waterfront provided access to the major transportation routes. This is also where early towns developed, linked by the steamboats that carried commercial products and crops to markets. The backcountry remained largely undeveloped frontier until it was cleared by freedmen during Reconstruction and later.
When cotton was king during the 1850s, Mississippi plantation owners—especially those of the Delta and Black Belt central regions—became wealthy due to the high fertility of the soil, the high price of cotton on the international market, and their assets in slaves.
By 1860, the enslaved African-American population numbered 436,631 or 55% of the state's total of 791,305. There were fewer than 1000 free people of color.
Civil War to 20th century
On January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to declare its secession from the Union, and it was one of the founding members of the Confederate States. The first six states to secede were those with the highest number of slaves.
During the war, Union and Confederate forces struggled for dominance on the Mississippi River, critical to supply routes and commerce. More than 80,000 Mississippians fought in the Civil War, and casualties were extremely heavy. Union General Ulysses S. Grant's long siege of Vicksburg finally gained the Union control of the river in 1863.
During Reconstruction, the first Mississippi constitutional convention in 1868, with delegates both black and white, framed a constitution whose major elements would be maintained for 22 years. The convention was the first political organization in the state to include African-American representatives.
Under the terms of Reconstruction, Mississippi was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870.
After the Civil War, tens of thousands of migrants were attracted to the area by higher wages offered by planters trying to develop land. In the 1870s and 1880s, many black farmers succeeded in gaining land ownership.
Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1875, after a year of expanded violence against blacks and intimidation of whites in what was called the "white line" campaign, based on asserting white supremacy. Riots took place in Vicksburg, Clinton, Macon, and in their counties, as well-armed whites broke up black meetings and killed known black leaders, destroying local political organizations. Seeing the success of this deliberate "Mississippi Plan", South Carolina and other states followed it and also achieved white dominance.
Even in this environment, black Mississippians continued to be elected into local office. However, estimates are that 100,000 black and 50,000 white men were removed from voter registration rolls in the state over the next few years.
The loss of political influence contributed to the difficulties of African Americans in their attempts to obtain extended credit in the late 19th century. Together with imposition of Jim Crow and racial segregation laws, whites committed an increased rate of killings of blacks, mostly men, beginning in the 1890s and extending to 1930.
Cotton crops failed due to boll weevil infestation and successive severe flooding in 1912 and 1913, creating crisis conditions for many African Americans.
20th century to present
In 1900, blacks made up more than half of the state's population. By 1910, a majority of black farmers in the Delta had lost their land and become sharecroppers.
By 1920, the third generation after freedom, most African Americans in Mississippi were landless laborers again facing poverty. Starting about 1913, tens of thousands of black Americans left Mississippi for the North in the Great Migration to industrial cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York.
In the early 20th century, some industries were established in Mississippi, but jobs were generally restricted to whites, including child workers. The lack of jobs also drove some southern whites north to cities such as Chicago and Detroit, seeking employment, where they also competed with European immigrants. The state depended on agriculture, but mechanization put many farm laborers out of work.
The Second Great Migration from the South started in the 1940s, lasting until 1970. Almost half a million people left Mississippi in the second migration, three-quarters of them black. The Second Great Migration included destinations in the West, especially California, where the buildup of the defense industry offered higher paying jobs to both African Americans and whites.
Blacks and whites in Mississippi generated rich, quintessentially American music traditions: gospel music, country music, jazz, blues and rock and roll. All were invented, promulgated or heavily developed by Mississippi musicians, many of them African American, and most came from the Mississippi Delta. Many musicians carried their music north to Chicago, where they made it the heart of that city's jazz and blues.
So many African Americans left in the Great Migration that after the 1930s, they became a minority in Mississippi.
The Civil Rights Movement had many roots in religion, and the strong community of churches helped supply volunteers and moral purpose for their activism. Mississippi was a center of activity, based in black churches, to educate and register black voters, and to work for integration.
After decades of disenfranchisement, African Americans in the state gradually began to exercise their right to vote again for the first time since the 19th century, following the passage of federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, which ended de jure segregation and enforced constitutional voting rights.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, though a Category 3 storm upon final landfall, caused even greater destruction across the entire 90 miles (145 km) of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Mississippi was 2,992,333 on July 1, 2015.
Ethnic makeup and ancestry
At the 2010 U.S. census, the racial makeup of the population was:
- 59.1% White American (58.0% non-Hispanic white, 1.1% White Hispanic)
- 37.0% African American or Black
- 0.5% American Indian and Alaska Native
- 0.9% Asian American
- 1.1% Multiracial American
- 1.4% Other
Ethnically, 2.7% of the total population, among all racial groups, was of Hispanic or Latino origin (they may be of any race).
Americans of Scots-Irish, English and Scottish ancestry are present throughout the state. It is believed that there are more people with such ancestry than identify as such on the census, in part because their immigrant ancestors are more distant in their family histories.
The state in 2010 had the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation.
Mississippi's rank as one of the poorest states is related to its dependence on cotton agriculture before and after the Civil War, late development of its frontier bottomlands in the Mississippi Delta, repeated natural disasters of flooding in the late 19th and early 20th century that required massive capital investment in levees, and ditching and draining the bottomlands, and slow development of railroads to link bottomland towns and river cities. In addition, when Democrats regained control of the state legislature, they passed the 1890 constitution that discouraged corporate industrial development in favor of rural agriculture, a legacy that would slow the state's progress for years.
Before the Civil War, Mississippi was the fifth-wealthiest state in the nation, its wealth generated by the labor of slaves in cotton plantations along the rivers. Slaves were counted as property and the rise in the cotton markets since the 1840s had increased their value. By 1860, a majority – 55 percent – of the population of Mississippi was enslaved. Ninety percent of the Delta bottomlands were undeveloped and the state had low overall density of population.
Poor whites and landless former slaves suffered the most from the postwar economic depression. The constitutional convention of early 1868 appointed a committee to recommend what was needed for relief of the state and its citizens. The committee found severe destitution among the laboring classes. It took years for the state to rebuild levees damaged in battles. The upset of the commodity system impoverished the state after the war. By 1868 an increased cotton crop began to show possibilities for free labor in the state, but the crop of 565,000 bales produced in 1870 was still less than half of prewar figures.
It was not until 1884, after the flood of 1882, that the state created the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta District Levee Board and started successfully achieving longer term plans for levees in the upper Delta. Despite the state's building and reinforcing levees for years, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 broke through and caused massive flooding of 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) throughout the Delta, homelessness for hundreds of thousands, and millions of dollars in property damages. With the Depression coming so soon after the flood, the state suffered badly during those years. In the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated North and West for jobs and chances to live as full citizens.
Ictalurids are cultivated in North America, especially in the Deep South, with Mississippi being the largest domestic catfish producer. Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) supports a $450 million/yr aquaculture industry. Channel catfish quickly became the major catfish grown, as it was hardy and easily spawned in earthen ponds. By the late 60s, the industry moved into the Mississippi Delta as farmers struggled with sagging profits in cotton, rice and soybeans, especially on those farm areas where soils had a very high clay content.
The Mississippi Delta became the industry home for the catfish industry, as they had the soils, climate and shallow aquifers to provide water for the earthen ponds that grow 360-380 million pounds (160,000 to 170,000 tons) of catfish annually. Catfish are fed a grain-based diet that includes soybean meal. Fish are fed daily through the summer at rates of 1-6% of body weight with the pelleted floating feed. Catfish need about two pounds of feed to produce one pound of live weight. Mississippi is home to 100,000 acres (400 km2) of catfish ponds, the largest of any state.
Mississippi has two international airports, one in Jackson (Jackson-Evers International Airport) and one in Gulfport (Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport)
Amtrak provides scheduled passenger service along two routes, the Crescent and City of New Orleans. Prior to severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, the Sunset Limited traversed the far south of the state; the route originated in Los Angeles, California and it terminated in Florida.
All but two of the United States Class I railroads serve Mississippi (the exceptions are the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific)
- Mississippi River
- Big Black River
- Pascagoula River
- Pearl River
- Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway
- Yazoo River
Major bodies of water
- Arkabutla Lake – 19,550 acres (79.1 km2) of water; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District
- Bay Springs Lake – 6,700 acres (27 km2) of water and 133 miles (214 km) of shoreline; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Grenada Lake – 35,000 acres (140 km2) of water; became operational in 1954; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District
- Ross Barnett Reservoir – Named for Ross Barnett, the 52nd Governor of Mississippi; 33,000 acres (130 km2) of water; became operational in 1966; constructed and managed by The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, a state agency; Provides water supply for the City of Jackson.
- Sardis Lake – 98,520 acres (398.7 km2) of water; became operational in October 1940; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District
While Mississippi has been especially known for its music and literature, it has embraced other forms of art. Its strong religious traditions have inspired striking works by outsider artists who have been shown nationally.
Jackson established the USA International Ballet Competition, which is held every four years. This ballet competition attracts the most talented young dancers from around the world.
The Magnolia Independent Film Festival, still held annually in Starkville, is the first and oldest in the state.
George Ohr, known as the "Mad Potter of Biloxi" and the father of abstract expressionism in pottery, lived and worked in Biloxi, MS.
Musicians of the state's Delta region were historically significant to the development of the blues.
Jimmie Rodgers, a native of Meridian and guitarist/singer/songwriter known as the "Father of Country Music", played a significant role in the development of the blues.
The state is creating a Mississippi Blues Trail, with dedicated markers explaining historic sites significant to the history of blues music, such as Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died after her auto accident on Highway 61. The Riverside Hotel is just one of many historical blues sites in Clarksdale. The Delta Blues Museum there is visited by tourists from all over the world. Close by is "Ground Zero", a contemporary blues club and restaurant co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman.
Elvis Presley, who created a sensation in the 1950s as a crossover artist and contributed to rock 'n' roll, was a native of Tupelo. From opera star Leontyne Price to the alternative rock band 3 Doors Down, to gulf and western singer Jimmy Buffett, modern rock/jazz/world music guitarist-producer Clifton Hyde, to rappers David Banner, Big K.R.I.T. and Afroman, Mississippi musicians have been significant in all genres.
In popular culture
- Children in the United States and Canada often count "One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi" during informal games such as hide and seek to approximate counting by seconds.
- Mississippi's low state rankings has given rise to the saying "Thank God for Mississippi", denoting relief that the speaker's state isn't the lowest.
- On March 12, 1894, the Biedenharn Candy Company bottled the first Coca-Cola in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Root beer was invented in Biloxi in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, the namesake of Barq's Root Beer.
- The Teddy bear gets its name from President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. On a 1902 hunting trip to Sharkey County, Mississippi, he ordered the mercy killing of a wounded bear.
- In 1935, the world's first night rodeo held outdoors under electric lights was produced by Earl Bascom and Weldon Bascom in Columbia, Marion County, Mississippi
- In 1936, Dr. Leslie Rush, of Rush Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, performed the first bone pinning in the United States. The "Rush Pin" is still in use.
- Burnita Shelton Matthews from near Hazlehurst, Mississippi, was the first woman appointed as a judge of a U.S. district court. She was appointed by Harry S. Truman on October 21, 1949.
- Marilyn Monroe won the Mrs. Mississippi finals in the 1952 film We're Not Married!.
- Texas Rose Bascom, of Columbia, Mississippi, became the most famous female trick roper in the world, performing on stage and in Hollywood movies. She toured the world with Bob Hope, billed as the "Queen of the Trick Ropers", and was the first Mississippian to be inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
- In 1963, Dr. James D. Hardy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center performed the first human lung transplant in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1964, Dr. Hardy performed the first heart transplant, transplanting the heart of a chimpanzee into a human, where it beat for 90 minutes.
- "At 10:00 a.m. on October 22, 1964, the United States government detonated an underground nuclear device in Lamar County, in south Mississippi. (...) The Project Salmon blast was about one-third as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. (...) The Project Sterling blast, on December 3, 1966, was considerably weaker than the blast two years earlier, as it was intended to be."
- On January 8, 1935, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo.
- Several warships have been named USS Mississippi.
- The comic book character Rogue, from the well-known series X-Men, is a Mississippian and self-declared southern belle. Her home town is located in the fictional county of Caldecott.
- In 2013, researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center discovered a functional cure for HIV/AIDS in infants.
- Many of legal thriller writer John Grisham's novels are set in and around the fictional town of Clanton, in the equally fictional Ford County, northwest Mississippi.
- In Star Trek, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Chief Medical Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, studied medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
- Johnny Carson attended Millsaps College under an elite Navy program to train officers, known as the V-12 Program from November 1943 to February 1945.
- The film Mississippi Burning is based around the FBI investigation of events that occurred there in 1964 where three civil rights workers were murdered. It stars Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe.
Images for kids
Mississippi Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.