Mississippi takes its name from the Mississippi River

November 29, 2012 5:04 pm

Mississippi takes its name from the Mississippi River. This mighty river forms the western boundary of the state. The name Mississippicomes from a Native American term that means “big river.”
Located in the southeastern , Mississippi is considered part of the Deep South. Mississippi became the 20th state of the , joining on December 10, 1817. Today, about 3 million people live in Mississippi. Jackson is the capital and largest city.
Facts About Mississippi
2,920,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Jackson, Gulfport, Biloxi, Oxford
48,400 square miles
125,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
December 10, 1817, the 20th state
State nickname
The Magnolia State
Name for residents
State bird
State flower
State tree
Mississippi is mostly flat. Its southern border touches the Gulf of Mexico. The whole state lies in the coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico. The area along the Mississippi River, called the Delta, is very flat. The Delta’s rich, black soil supports many farms.
Low hills and valleys cover the eastern part of the state. Mississippi’s highest point is Woodall Mountain in the northeast. But it stands just 806 feet (246 meters) high. That’s lower than some city skyscrapers!
Forests once covered most of Mississippi, but farmers cleared many of the trees. Pine forests called the Piney Woods thrive in the south. The magnolia, a tree with large, white flowers, grows throughout the state. It gives Mississippi its nickname, the Magnolia State.
Measured in a straight line, Mississippi’s coastline on the Gulf of Mexico is only 44 miles (71 kilometers) long. But the coast is very crooked, with many bays and coves. All these indentations give Mississippi a total coastline length of 359 miles (578 kilometers).
A string of narrow, offshore islands protect the coast. Some of these form a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a wildlife refuge. The biggest islands are Cat, Ship, Horn, and Petit Bois.
The Mississippi River winds slowly through the Mississippi Delta. Sometimes the Mississippi changes direction. It cuts brand-new channels as it zigzags over the flat river plain.
When the Mississippi changes course, it can create oxbow lakes. Oxbow lakes form when the river takes a shortcut by skipping over a sharp bend in its course. The water in the bend is separated from the river and stops flowing, creating a lake.
Native Americans living in the Mississippi region were Mound Builders. They built large earthen mounds at their settlements. The mounds served different purposes. Some served as graves for important people. Others were platforms to hold buildings such as temples. Still others were made in the shape of animals or legendary beings. Many of these ancient mounds still stand in Mississippi.
The three largest Native American groups in Mississippi were the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez. European settlers arrived in the late 1600s and began pushing the native people out. By the mid-1800s, most Native Americans were gone.
But some Choctaw managed to stay. They still speak their native language and maintain some traditions. Every year, they hold a Choctaw Indian Fair to celebrate their heritage.
Mississippi’s warm climate and rich soil proved ideal for growing cotton. For many years, cotton was Mississippi’s main crop. By the 1800s, huge cotton farms, called plantations, were found in many parts of the state. Many old plantation homes have been preserved. You can see a number of these stately mansions in Natchez, Mississippi’s oldest city.
In the early 1900s, a beetle called the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop in Mississippi and neighboring states. Many cotton-growing lands were abandoned or used to raise cattle or grow other crops. But cotton is still important. Mississippi is the fourth biggest cotton producer in the United States. Mississippi farmers also grow soybeans, rice, corn, sweet potatoes, and pecans.
In 1861, Mississippi joined the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy was a group of Southern states that tried to leave the Union to form their own country. The American Civil War was fought to hold the nation together. Jefferson Davis, a Mississippi native, was president of the Confederacy.
The city of Vicksburg, perched on a steep bluff on the Mississippi River, was an important Confederate stronghold. A decisive Civil War battle took place in Vicksburg. In 1863, the Union Army surrounded the city in a siege that lasted 47 days. It ended when the Confederate Army surrendered. The victory gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
Today, the Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the battle and the soldiers who died there.
African Americans make up more than one-third of Mississippi’s population. For many years, blacks were denied many basic rights in Mississippi. The civil rights movement helped to change that. It was a period in the 1950s and 1960s when blacks campaigned for equality.
Some major events of the civil rights movement took place in Mississippi. One was called the Freedom Summer. In 1964, college students from Northern states traveled south to help activists register black Americans to vote. The students faced violent attacks and arrest. Three of these students were murdered in Mississippi, causing outrage throughout the country.
If you like pop or rock-and-roll music, then you can thank Mississippi! That’s because a style of music called the blues grew up in the Mississippi Delta. African Americans developed this style of music in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The blues inspired a wide range of music, including gospel music, jazz, pop, and rock and roll.
Many of the early great blues musicians were from the Delta. They include legends such as Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Elvis Presley, the original “king” of rock and roll, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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