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Mississippi ( ) is a state located in the Southern United States. Jacksonmarker is the state capital and largest city. The state's name comes from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, and takes its name from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi ("Great River"). The state is heavily forested outside of the Mississippi Delta area. Its catfish aquaculture farms produce the majority of farm-raised catfish consumed in the United States. The state symbol is the magnolia tree.


Mississippi is bordered on the north by Tennesseemarker, on the east by Alabamamarker, on the south by Louisianamarker and a narrow coast on the Gulf of Mexicomarker and on the west, across the Mississippi River, by Louisianamarker and Arkansasmarker.

Major rivers in Mississippi, apart from its namesake, include the Big Black River, the Pearl Rivermarker, the Yazoomarker, the Pascagoulamarker, and the Tombigbee. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoirmarker, Arkabutla Lakemarker, Sardis Lakemarker and Grenada Lakemarker.
Mississippi State Map
The state of Mississippi is entirely composed of lowlands, the highest point being Woodall Mountainmarker, in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, 806 feet (246 m) above sea level. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulfmarker coast. The mean elevation in the state 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. Louismarker, Biloximarker and Pascagoulamarker. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico proper by the shallow Mississippi Soundmarker, which is partially sheltered by Petit Bois Island, Horn Islandmarker, East and West Ship Islandsmarker, Deer Island, Round Island and Cat Islandmarker.

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 Vicksburgmarker. The region has rich soil, partly made up of silt which had been regularly deposited by the floodwaters of the Mississippi River.

Areas under the management of the National Park Service include:


Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate with long summers and short, mild winters. Temperatures average about 85°F (about 28°C) in July and about 48 °F (about 9 °C) in January. The temperature varies little statewide in the summer, but in winter the region near Mississippi Sound is significantly warmer than the inland portion of the state. The recorded temperature in Mississippi has ranged from -19 °F (-28.3 °C), in 1966, at Corinthmarker in the northeast, to 115 °F (46.1 °C), in 1930, at Holly Springsmarker in the north. Yearly precipitation generally increases from north to south, with the regions closer to the Gulfmarker being the most humid. Thus, Clarksdalemarker, in the northwest, gets about 50 inches (about 1,270 mm) of precipitation annually and Biloximarker, in the south, about 61 inches (about 1,550 mm). Small amounts of snow fall in northern and central Mississippi, although snow is not unheard of around the southern part of the state.

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, are the most devastating hurricanes to hit the state, both causing nearly total storm surge damage around Gulfportmarker, Biloximarker and Pascagoulamarker. 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 US 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 five F5 tornadoes have been recorded in the state, the last one being in 1971.

Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures (°F) For Various Mississippi Cities
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Gulfport 61/43 64/46 70/52 77/59 84/66 89/72 91/74 91/74 87/70 79/60 70/51 63/45
Jackson 55/35 60/38 68/45 75/52 82/61 89/68 91/71 91/70 86/65 77/52 66/43 58/37
Meridian 58/35 63/38 70/44 77/50 84/60 90/67 93/70 93/70 88/64 78/51 68/43 60/37
Tupelo 50/30 56/34 65/41 74/48 81/58 88/66 91/70 91/68 85/62 75/49 63/40 54/33


Mississippi is heavily forested, with over half of the state's area covered by wild trees; mostly pine, as well as cottonwood, elm, hickory, oak, pecan, sweetgum and tupelo.

Flooding and littering are two major ecological issues confronting Mississippi statewide.

Due to seasonal flooding possible from December to June, the Mississippi River created a fertile floodplain in the Mississippi Delta, including tributaries. Early planters used slaves to build levees along the Mississippi River to divert flooding. They built on top of the natural levees that formed from dirt deposited after the river flooded. As cultivation of cotton increased in the Delta, planters hired Irish laborers to ditch and drain their land.

The state took over levee building from 1858 to 1861, 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, and 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.

Mississippi state welcome sign

Flooding has been an integral part of Mississippi history. It took a toll during the years after the Civil War. Major floods swept down the valley in 1865, 1867, 1874 and 1882. Such floods regularly overwhelmed levees damaged by Confederate and Union fighting during the war, as well as those constructed after the war.

In 1877, the Mississippi Levee District was created for southern counties. In 1879, the United States Congress created the Mississippi River Commission, whose responsibilities included aiding state levee boards in the construction of levees. Both white and black transient workers built the levees in the late 19th century. By 1882, levees averaged seven feet in height, but many in the southern Delta were severely tested by the flood that year.

After the flood, the levee system was expanded. In 1884, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee District was established to oversee levee construction and maintenance in the northern Delta counties; also included were some counties in Arkansasmarker.

Flooding overwhelmed northwestern Mississippi in 1912–1913, causing heavy damage to the levee districts. Regional losses and the Mississippi River Levee Association's lobbying for a flood control bill helped gain passage of national bills in 1917 and 1923 to provide Federal matching funds for local levee districts, on a scale of 2:1. Although US participation in World War I interrupted funding of levees, the second round of funding helped raise the average height of levees in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta to in the 1920s.

Nonetheless, the region was again flooded. Property, stock and crops all experiencing millions of dollars in damages due to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The most damage was in the lower Delta, including Washingtonmarker and Bolivarmarker counties.

Even as scientific knowledge about the Mississippi River has grown, upstream development and the levees themselves have caused more severe flooding in some years. In addition, the levees are now seen to have changed the nature of the river, removing the natural protection of wetlands and forest cover. The state and federal governments have been struggling for the best approaches to restoring some natural habitats in order to best interact with the original riverine ecology.

In 2008, The American State Litter Scorecard, presented at the American Society for Public Administration national conference, ranked Mississippi "worst" of the 50 United States for removing litter from statewide public roadways and properties.


Nearly 10,000 BCE, Native American or Paleo-Indians arrived in what today is referred to as the South. Paleoindians in the South were hunter-gatherers who pursued the megafauna that became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. After thousands of years, the Paleoindians developed a rich and complex agricultural society. Archaeologists called these people the Mississippians of the Mississippian culture; they were Mound Builders, whose large earthworks related to political and religious rituals still stand throughout the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. Descendant Native American tribes include the Chickasaw and Choctaw. Other tribes who inhabited the territory of Mississippi (and whose names were honored in local towns) include the Natchez, the Yazoo and the Biloxi.

The first major European expedition into the territory that became Mississippi was that of Hernando de Soto, who passed through in 1540. The French, in April 1699, established the first European settlement at Fort Maurepas (also known as Old Biloxi), built at Ocean Springsmarker and settled by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. In 1716, the French founded Natchezmarker 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 Louisiana".

Through the next decades, the area was ruled by Spanishmarker, Britishmarker and Frenchmarker colonial governments. Under French and Spanish rule, there developed a class of free people of color (gens de couleur libres), mostly descendants of European men and enslaved women, and their multiracial children. In the early days the French and Spanish colonists were chiefly men. Even as more European women joined the settlements, there continued to be interracial unions. Often the European men would help their children get educated, and sometimes settled property on them, as well as freeing slave children and their mothers. The free people of color became educated and formed a third class between the Europeans and enslaved Africans in the French and Spanish settlements, although not so large a community as in New Orleansmarker. After Great Britainmarker's victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the French deeded the Mississippi area to them under the terms of the Treaty of Paris .

After the American Revolution, this area became part of the new United States of Americamarker. The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgiamarker and South Carolinamarker. It was later twice expanded to include disputed territory claimed by both the United States and Spain. From 1800 to about 1830, the United States purchased some lands (Treaty of Doak's Stand) from Native American tribes for new settlements of Americans.

On December 10, 1817, Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union.

When cotton was king during the 1850s, Mississippi plantation owners—especially those of the Delta and Black Belt 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. The planters' dependence on hundreds of thousands of slaves for labor and the severe wealth imbalances among whites, played strong roles both in state politics and in planters' support for secession. By 1860, the enslaved population numbered 436,631 or 55% of the state's total of 791,305. There were fewer than 1000 free people of color. The relatively low population of the state before the Civil War reflected the fact that land and villages were developed only along the riverfronts, which formed the main transportation corridors. Ninety percent of the Delta bottomlands were frontier and undeveloped. The state needed many more settlers for development.

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 of America.

During Reconstruction, the first constitutional convention in 1868 framed a constitution whose major elements would last for 22 years. The convention was the first political organization to include freedmen representatives, 17 among the 100 members. Although 32 counties had black majorities, they elected whites as well as blacks to represent them. The convention adopted universal suffrage; did away with property qualifications for suffrage or for office, which also benefited poor whites; provided for the state's first public school system; forbade race distinctions in the possession and inheritance of property; and prohibited limiting civil rights in travel. Under the terms of Reconstruction, Mississippi was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870.

While Mississippi typified the Deep South in passing Jim Crow laws in the early 20th century, its history was more complex. Because the Mississippi Delta contained so much fertile bottomland which had not been developed before the Civil War, 90 percent of the land was still frontier. After the Civil War, tens of thousands of migrants were attracted to the area. They could earn money by clearing the land and selling timber, and eventually advance to ownership. The new farmers included freedmen, who achieved unusually high rates of land ownership in the Mississippi bottomlands. In the 1870s and 1880s, many black farmers succeeded in gaining land ownership.

By the turn of the century, two-thirds of the farmers in Mississippi who owned land in the Delta were African-American. Many were able to keep going through difficult years of falling cotton prices only by extending their debts. Cotton prices fell throughout the decades following the Civil War. As another agricultural depression lowered cotton prices into the 1890s, however, numerous African-American farmers finally had to sell their land to pay off debts, thus losing the land into which they had put so much labor.

White legislators created a new constitution in 1890, with provisions that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. Estimates are that 100,000 black and 50,000 white men were removed from voter registration rolls over the next few years. The loss of political influence contributed to the difficulties of African Americans in their attempts to obtain extended credit. Together with Jim Crow laws, increased frequency of lynchings beginning in the 1890s, failure of the cotton crops due to boll weevil infestation, successive severe flooding in 1912 and 1913 created crisis conditions for many African Americans. With control of the ballot box and more access to credit, white planters expanded their ownership of Delta bottomlands and could take advantage of new railroads.

By 1910, a majority of black farmers in the Delta had lost their land and were 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. Louismarker, Chicagomarker, Detroitmarker, Philadelphiamarker and New Yorkmarker. They sought jobs, better education for their children, the right to vote, relative freedom from discrimination, and better living. In the migration of 1910–1940, they left a society that had been steadily closing off opportunity. Most migrants from Mississippi took trains directly north to Chicago and often settled near former neighbors.

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. Nationwide during the first half of the 20th century, African Americans became rapidly urbanized and many worked in industrial jobs. The Second Great Migration included destinations in the West, especially Californiamarker, where the buildup of the defense industry offered high-paying jobs to African Americans.

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 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.

Mississippi was a center of activity to educate and register voters during the Civil Rights Movement. Although 42% of the state's population was African American in 1960, discriminatory voter registration processes still prevented most of them from voting, consequent to provisions of the state constitution, which had been in place since 1890. Students and community organizers from across the country came to help register voters and establish Freedom Schools. Resistance and harsh attitudes of most white politicians (including the creation of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission), the participation of many Mississippians in the White Citizens' Councils, and the violent tactics of the Ku Klux Klan and its sympathizers, gained Mississippi a reputation in the 1960s as a reactionary state.

In 1966, the state was the last to officially repeal prohibition of alcohol.

The state repealed its segregationist era poll tax in 1989 and its ban on interracial marriage (miscegenation) in 1987. In 1995, it symbolically ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which had abolished slavery. In 2009, the legislature passed a bill to repeal other discriminatory civil rights laws that had been enacted in 1964 but ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by federal courts. Republican Governor Haley Barbour signed the bill into law.

On August 17, 1969, Category 5 Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi coast, killing 248 people and causing US$1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars). On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, though a Category 3 storm upon final landfall, caused even greater destruction across the entire of Mississippi Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.



As of 2008, Mississippi has an estimated population of 2,938,618. Mississippi's population has the largest proportion of African Americans of any U.S. state, currently nearly 37%.

The 2000 Census reported Mississippi's population as 2,844,658 [649139]. The center of population of Mississippi is located in Leake Countymarker, in the town of Lenamarker.

Racial makeup and ancestry

Mississippi population density map
The Census Bureau considers race and Hispanic ethnicity to be two separate categories. These data, however, are only for non-Hispanic members of each group: non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, etc. For more information on race and the Census, see here.

On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed between the U.S. Government and Native American Choctaws. The Choctaws agreed to selling their traditional homelands in Mississippi and Alabama with just compensation, which opened it up for European-American immigrant settlement. Article 14 in the treaty allowed the Choctaws to remain in the state of Mississippi and to become the first major non-European ethnic group to become U.S. citizens. Today approximately 9,500 Choctaws live in Neshoba, Newton, Leake, and Jones counties. Federally recognized tribes include the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Until the 1930s, African Americans made up a majority of Mississippians. Due to the Great Migration, when more than 360,000 African Americans left the state during the 1940s and after to leave segregation and disfranchisement, and for better economic opportunities in the northern and western states, Mississippi's African-American population declined.

The state has the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation. Recently, the African-American percentage of population has begun to increase due mainly to a higher birth rate than the state average. Due to patterns of settlement, in many of Mississippi's public school districts, a majority of students are of African descent. [649140] African Americans are the majority ethnic group in the northwestern Yazoo Delta and the southwestern and the central parts of the state, chiefly areas where the group owned land as farmers or worked on cotton plantations and farms.

According to the 2000 census, the largest ancestries are:

People of French Creole ancestry form the largest demographic group in Hancock Countymarker on the Gulf Coast. The African-American; Choctaw, mostly in Neshoba County; and Chinese-American segments of the population are also almost entirely native born.

Although some ethnic Chinese were recruited as indentured laborers from Cuba during the 1870s and later 19th c., the majority immigrated directly from China to Mississippi between 1910–1930. They were recruited as laborers. While planters first made arrangements with the Chinese for sharecropping, most Chinese soon left that work. Many became small merchants and especially grocers in towns throughout the Delta.

According to recent statistics, Mississippi leads the country in the rate of increase of immigrants, . Most recent immigrants are Hispanic from Mexico, Central and South America.


For overall health care, Mississippi is ranked 50th or last place of all the states, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit foundation working to advance performance of the health care system. For three years in a row, more than 30 percent of Mississippi's residents have been classified as obese. In a 2006 study, 22.8 percent of the state's children were classified as obese. Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity of any U.S. state from 2005-2008 and also ranks first in the nation for high blood pressure, diabetes, and adult inactivity. In a 2008 study of African American women, contributing risk factors were shown to be: lack of knowledge about body mass index (BMI), dietary behavior, physical activity and lack of social support, defined as motivation and encouragement by friends. A 2002 report on African American adolescents noted a 1999 survey which suggests that a third of children were obese, with higher ratios for those in the Delta.

The study stressed that "obesity starts in early childhood extending into the adolescent years and then possibly into adulthood". It noted impediments to needed behavioral modification included the Delta likely being "the most underserved region in the state" with African Americans the major ethnic group; lack of accessibility and availability of medical care; and an estimated 60% of residents living below the poverty level. Additional risk factors were that most schools had no physical education curriculum and nutrition education is not emphasized. Previous intervention strategies may have been largely ineffective due to not being culturally sensitive or practical. A 2006 survey found nearly 95 percent of Mississippi adults considered childhood obesity to be a serious problem.


Under French and Spanish rule beginning in the 1600s, many settlers of present-day Mississippi were Roman Catholics. In the early 1800s, Mississippi began attracting many Protestant evangelicals such as Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists, who would eventually become the majority by the 20th century. In 2000 the Southern Baptist Convention was the largest religious denomination in the state with 916,440 adherents, followed by the United Methodist Church with 240,576 and the Roman Catholic Church with 115,760. Members of the Roman Catholic Church are concentrated in areas once influenced by French and Spanish rule, especially along the Gulf Coast and in other southern counties of the state (see Cajuns and Créoles).

The dramatic shift in religion can be attributed to several Protestant groups seeking to question the authority of the established Catholic Church during the era known as the Great Revival in the early 1800s. These groups attracted the "plain folk" in the area by reaching out to all members of society, especially those most alienated from elite culture, such as women and African Americans. Because the evangelical groups opposed slavery and promoted spiritual equality, biracial churches were founded in large numbers during this era. This led to increased mingling between whites and blacks, which many in the segregated society opposed. Husbands and slave owners in particular were opposed to the evangelical groups because of their radical positions on women's rights and the institution of slavery. In the 1830s, when the state's economy was booming, many Mississippians associated with the evangelicals began to acquire better jobs and higher social positions; some even became slave owners themselves. With the influx of wealthier, higher-class whites, churches began to abandon their spiritual equality mantra and eventually split because of racial tensions. Whites were focused on maintaining the social segregation present in society at the time while blacks sought to continue with the spiritual equality message that had originally attracted them. Churches grew more and more divided in the following years. When several states in The North began to outlaw slavery, southern white churches felt the need to secede from the Union, which was one of the causes of the American Civil War.

In the post-war years religion became very popular in the state and the rest of the Southeastern United States, leading some to deem the region the "Bible Belt". Churchgoers prescribed to the Social Gospel movement, which attempted to apply Christian ethics to political situations of the day. By the early 1900s, racial tensions had grown because of several laws approved by whites, and the African-American philosophy of spiritual equality had begun resonating with the population. African-American Baptist churches had grown to include more than twice the number of members as white Baptist churches. The African-American call for social equality resonated throughout the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s; members of Mississippi society began to speak out against racial injustices such as the Jim Crow Laws. The American Civil Rights Movement had many roots in religion; both sides cited religious reasons for their viewpoints. The end of racial segregation led to the reintegration of some churches, but most still today remain all black or all white. Since the 1970s, fundamentalist conservative churches have grown rapidly, fueling Mississippi's conservative political trends.

Other religions have also existed in Mississippi, though not as large in number. In 2000, the largest denomination described as something different than Protestant or Catholic was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 12,992 adherents. Other notable denominations include Muslims with 3,919 adherents in the state, Jews with 1,400 adherents, and Bahá'í with 811 adherents.

Same-sex couples

The 2000 United States census counted 4,774 same-sex unmarried-partner households in Mississippi. Of these, 2,521 are male partner households and 2,523 are female partner households. 41% contained at least one child. South Dakotamarker and Utahmarker were the only other states in which 40 percent or more of same-sex couple households had at least one child living in the household. Mississippi also has the largest percentage of African-American same-sex couples among total households. The state capital, Jackson, ranks tenth in the nation in concentration of African-American same-sex couples. The state also ranks fifth in the nation in the percentage of Hispanic same-sex couples among all Hispanic households and ninth in the highest concentration of same-sex couples who are seniors.

In 2004, Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting Mississippi from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The amendment passed 86% to 14%, the largest margin in any state.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Mississippi's total state product in 2006 was $84 billion. Per capita personal income in 2006 was $26,908, the lowest per capita personal income of any state, but the state also has the nation's lowest living costs. Although the state has one of the lowest per capita income rates in the United States, Mississippians consistently rank as one of the highest per capita in charitable contributions. A 2009 report by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked Mississippi as having the nineteenth best economic outlook of all U.S. states.

Before the Civil War, Mississippi was the fifth-wealthiest state in the nation, wealth generated by cotton plantations along the rivers.Slaves were then counted as property and the rise in the cotton markets since the 1840s had increased their value. A majority – 55 percent – of the population of Mississippi was enslaved in 1860. Ninety percent of the Delta bottomlands were undeveloped and the state had low population overall.

Largely due to the domination of the plantation economy, focused on the production of agricultural cotton, the state was slow to use its wealth to invest in infrastructure such as public schools, roads and railroads. Industrialization did not come in many areas until the late 20th century. The planter aristocracy, the elite of antebellum Mississippi, kept the tax structure low for themselves and made private improvements. Before the war the most successful planters, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, owned riverside properties along the Mississippi River. Most of the state was undeveloped frontier away from the riverfronts.

During the Civil War, 30,000 mostly white Mississippi men died from wounds and disease, and many more were left crippled and wounded. Changes to the labor structure and an agricultural depression throughout the South caused severe losses in wealth. In 1860 assessed valuation of property in Mississippi had been more than $500 million, of which $218 million (43 percent) was estimated as the value of slaves. By 1870, total assets had decreased in value to roughly $177 million.

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.

Blacks sold timber and developed bottomland to achieve ownership. In 1900, two-thirds of farm owners in Mississippi were blacks, a major achievement for them and their families. Due to the poor economy, low cotton prices and difficulty of getting credit, many of these farmers could not make it through the extended financial difficulties. Two decades later, the majority of African Americans were sharecroppers. The low prices of cotton into the 1890s meant that more than a generation of African Americans lost the result of their labor when they had to sell their farms to pay off accumulated debts.

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 requiring massive capital investment in levees, heavy capital investment to ditch and drain the bottomlands, and slow development of railroads to link bottomland towns and river cities. In addition, when conservative white Democrats regained control, they passed the 1890 constitution that discouraged industry, a legacy that would slow the state's progress for years.

Democratic Party paramilitary militias and groups such as the Red Shirts and White Camellia terrorized African American Republicans and suppressed voting. The Democrats regained political control of the state in 1877. The legislature passed statutes to establish segregation and a new constitution that effectively disfranchised most blacks, Native Americans and many poor whites by changes to electoral and voter registration rules. The state refused for years to build human capital by fully educating all its citizens. In addition, the reliance on agriculture grew increasingly costly as the state suffered loss of crops due to the devastation of the boll weevil in the early 20th century, devastating floods in 1912–1913 and 1927, collapse of cotton prices after 1920, and drought in 1930.

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 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, tens of thousands of African Americans migrated North and West for jobs and chances to live as full citizens.

The legislature's 1990 decision to legalize casino gambling along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast has led to economic gains for the state. Gambling towns in Mississippi include the Gulf Coast resort towns of Bay St. Louismarker, Gulfportmarker and Biloximarker, and the Mississippi River towns of Tunicamarker (the third largest gaming area in the United States), Greenvillemarker, Vicksburgmarker and Natchezmarker. Before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Mississippi was the second largest gambling state in the Union, after Nevadamarker and ahead of New Jerseymarker. An estimated $500,000 per day in tax revenue was lost following Hurricane Katrina's severe damage to several coastal casinos in August 2005. In 2007, Mississippi had the third largest gambling revenue of any state, behind New Jersey and Nevada. Federally recognized Native American tribes have also established gaming casinos on their reservations, which are yielding revenue to support education and economic development.

On October 17, 2005, Governor Haley Barbour signed a bill into law that allows casinos in Hancock and Harrison counties to rebuild on land (but within of the water). The only exception is in Harrison Countymarker, where the new law states that casinos can be built to the southern boundary of U.S. Route 90.

Mississippi collects personal income tax in three tax brackets, ranging from 3% to 5%. The retail sales tax rate in Mississippi is 7%. Additional local sales taxes also are collected. For purposes of assessment for ad valorem taxes, taxable property is divided into five classes.

On August 30, 2007, a report by the United States Census Bureau indicated that Mississippi was the poorest state in the country. Many cotton farmers in the Delta have large, mechanized plantations, some of which receive extensive Federal subsidies, yet many other residents still live as poor, rural, landless laborers. Of $1.2 billion from 2002–2005 in Federal subsidies to farmers in the Bolivar County area of the Delta, 5% went to small farmers. There has been little money apportioned for rural development. Small towns are struggling. More than 100,000 people have left the region in search of work elsewhere. The state had a median household income of $34,473 and a per capita of $9,432.

Federal subsidies and spending

Despite Mississippi's fiscal conservatism in which Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and other social programs are often cut, eliminated, have tightened eligibility requirements, and strict employment criteria, Mississippi ranks as having the 2nd highest ratio of any state receiving federal aid. Per dollar of federal tax collected in 2004, Mississippi citizens received approximately $2.02 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state 2nd highest nationally, and represents a increase from 1995, when Mississippi received $1.54 per dollar of taxes in federal spending and was 3rd highest nationally.



Mississippi is served by eight interstate highways:

and fourteen main U.S. Routes:

as well as a system of State Highways.

For more information, visit the Mississippi Department of Transportation website.



Amtrak provides scheduled passenger service along two routes, the Crescent and City of New Orleans.


All but one of the United States Class I railroads serve Mississippi (the sole exception is the Union Pacific):


Major rivers

Major lakes

  • Arkabutla Lakemarker – of water; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District
  • Grenada Lakemarker – of water; became operational in 1954; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District
  • Ross Barnett Reservoirmarker – Named for Ross Barnett, the 52nd Governor of Mississippi; 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 – of water; became operational in October 1940; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District

Law and government

As with all other U.S. states and the federal government, Mississippi's government is based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial power. Executive authority in the state rests with the Governor, currently Haley Barbour (R). The Lieutenant Governor, currently Phil Bryant (R), is elected on a separate ballot. Both the governor and lieutenant governor are elected to four-year terms of office. Unlike the federal government, but like many other U.S. States, most of the heads of major executive departments are elected by the citizens of Mississippi rather than appointed by the governor.

Mississippi is one of five states that elects its state officials in odd-numbered years (The others are Kentuckymarker, Louisianamarker, New Jerseymarker and Virginiamarker). Mississippi holds elections for these offices every four years in the years preceding Presidential election years. Thus, the last year when Mississippi elected a Governor was 2007, and the next gubernatorial election will occur in 2011.

Major cities and towns

Map with all counties and many cities and towns labeled.
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 50,000 (United States Census Bureau estimates as of 2008):
  1. Jacksonmarker (173,861)
  2. Gulfportmarker (70,055)
  3. Hattiesburgmarker (51,993)

Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 20,000 but less than 50,000 (United States Census Bureau estimates as of 2008):
  1. Biloximarker (45,670)
  2. Southavenmarker (44,076)
  3. Meridianmarker (38,232)
  4. Tupelomarker (36,233)
  5. Greenvillemarker (35,764)

  1. Olive Branchmarker (31,830)
  2. Clintonmarker (26,313)
  3. Vicksburgmarker (24,974)
  4. Horn Lakemarker (24,669)
  5. Pearlmarker (24,400)

  1. Starkvillemarker (24,187)
  2. Columbusmarker (23,798)
  3. Pascagoulamarker (23,609)
  4. Brandonmarker (22,160)
  5. Ridgelandmarker (21,509)

Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 10,000 but less than 20,000 (United States Census Bureau estimates as of 2008):
  1. Laurelmarker (18,693)
  2. Clarksdalemarker (18,006)
  3. Madisonmarker (17,681)
  4. Oxfordmarker (17,265)
  5. Ocean Springsmarker (17,149)
  6. Natchezmarker (16,413)
  7. Gautiermarker (16,306)
  8. Greenwoodmarker (16,084)

  1. Grenadamarker (14,664)
  2. Corinthmarker (14,253)
  3. Moss Pointmarker (13,951)
  4. McCombmarker (13,684)
  5. Brookhavenmarker (13,296)
  6. Cantonmarker (12,520)
  7. Hernandomarker (12,318)
  8. Long Beachmarker (12,234)

  1. Clevelandmarker (12,218)
  2. Picayunemarker (11,787)
  3. Yazoo Citymarker (11,425)
  4. West Pointmarker (11,292)
  5. Indianolamarker (10,805)
  6. Petalmarker (10,575)

(See: Lists of cities, towns and villages, census-designated places, metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and counties in Mississippi)


Until the Civil War era, Mississippi had a small number of schools and no educational institutions for black people. The first school for black people was established in 1862.

During Reconstruction in 1870, black and white Republicans were the first to establish a system of public education in the state. The state's dependence on agriculture and resistance to taxation limited the funds it had available to spend on any schools. As late as the early 20th century, there were few schools in rural areas. With seed money from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, many rural black communities across Mississippi raised matching funds and contributed public funds to build new schools for their children. Essentially, many black adults taxed themselves twice and made significant sacrifices to raise money for the education of children in their communities.

Blacks and whites attended separate public school in Mississippi until the 1960s, when they began to be integrated following the 1954 U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

In the late 1980s, the state had 954 public elementary and secondary schools, with a total yearly enrollment of about 369,500 elementary pupils and about 132,500 secondary students. Some 45,700 students attended private schools. In 2008, Mississippi was ranked last among the fifty states in academic achievement by the American Legislative Exchange Council's Report Card on Education, with the lowest average ACT scores and sixth lowest spending per pupil in the nation. In contrast, Mississippi had the 17th highest average SAT scores in the nation. According to the report, 92% of Mississippi high school graduates took the ACT and 3% took the SAT, in comparison to the national averages of 43% and 45%, respectively.

In 2007, Mississippi students scored the lowest of any state on the National Assessments of Educational Progress in both math and science.

(see: List of colleges and universities in Mississippi)


While Mississippi has been especially known for its music and literature, it has embraced other forms of art, too. 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 Starkvillemarker, is the first and oldest in the state.


Musicians of the state's Delta region were historically significant to the development of the blues. Their laments arose out of the region's hard times after Reconstruction. Although by the end of the 19th century, two-thirds of the farm owners were black, continued low prices for cotton and national financial pressures resulted in most of them losing their land. More problems built up with the boll weevil infestation, when thousands of agricultural jobs were lost. Many Mississippi musicians migrated to Chicagomarker and created new forms of jazz and other genres there.

Jimmie Rodgers, a native of Meridian and white guitarist/singer/songwriter known as the "Father of Country Music", also played a significant role in the development of the blues. He and Chester Arthur Burnett were friends and admirers of each other's music. Rodgers was supposed to have given Burnett his nickname of Howlin' Wolf. Their friendship and respect is an important example of Mississippi's musical legacy. While the state has had a reputation for being the most racist in America, individual musicians created an integrated music community. Mississippi musicians created new forms by combining and creating variations on musical traditions from Africa with the musical traditions of white Southerners, a tradition largely rooted in Scots–Irish music.

The state is creating a Mississippi Blues Trail, with dedicated markers explaining historic sites significant to the history of blues music, such as Clarksdalemarker'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 Museummarker there is visited by tourists from all over the world. Close by are "Ground Zero" and "Madidi", a contemporary blues club and restaurant co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman.

Mississippi has also been fundamental to the development of American music as a whole. Elvis Presley, who created a sensation in the 1950s as a crossover artist and contributed to rock 'n' roll, was a native of Tupelomarker. From opera star Leontyne Price to the alternative rock band 3 Doors Down, to gulf and western singer Jimmy Buffett, to rappers David Banner and Afroman, Mississippi musicians have been significant in all genres.

(see: List of people from Mississippi)


Notable natives

Mississippi has produced a number of notable and famous individuals, especially in the realm of music and literature. Among the most notable are:

Trivia and modern culture related

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.

In 1891, the Biedenharn Candy Company bottled the first Coca-Cola in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Root beer was invented in Biloximarker 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, Mississippimarker, he refused to shoot a captured 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, Mississippimarker

In 1936, Dr. Leslie Rush, of Rush Hospital in Meridian, Mississippimarker performed the first bone pinning in the United States. The "Rush Pin" is still in use.

Burnita Shelton Matthews from near Hazlehurst, Mississippimarker 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 Miss Mississippi finals in the 1952 movie We're Not Married.

Texas Rose Bascom, of Columbia, Mississippimarker, 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 Famemarker.

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."

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.

For the past seven years, the Sundancer Solar Race Team from Houston, MSmarker, has won first place in the Open Division of the Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge.

See also


External links

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