Mississippi (abbr.: MS or Miss.), state of the United States of America, 123,584 km2, with 2.5 million inhabitants; capital city: Jackson.
The soil shows little relief and is generally sloping to hilly. The 20 to 25 km wide coastal strip is only a few meters above sea level; the hinterland has an average elevation of 50 m; the central and northern areas reach a height of 100 to 150 m and only the Pontotoc Ridge in the extreme northeast is more than 200 m high (Woodall Mountain, 246 m). The Mississippi flows along the western border of the state. The main tributaries here are the Yazoo and the Big Black River. Mississippi has a subtropical climate. Tornadoes are frequent, especially between February and May.
The average population density is 21 inhabitants. per km2. About 47% of the total population lives in the cities. The only city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. is Jackson. See top cities in Mississippi.
Due to its favorable climate and fertile soil, Mississippi has traditionally been an agricultural state. The main agricultural product is cotton; further cultivation of soybeans and rice. The livestock includes dairy cows, pigs, and cattle and poultry. Forestry (more than half of the state is forested) supplies lumber, wood pulp (for the paper industry), and turpentine gum. Fishing is of great importance (particularly shrimp and menhaden, a herring species that is used, among other things, in the preparation of manure). Mississippi is the largest supplier of freshwater-farmed catfish species (especially blue catfish and channel catfish. The mining industry mainly produces petroleum and natural gas (center Yazoo City). Recently, the emergence of industry, with manufacturing of transportation equipment, agricultural machinery, food, textile products and electronics.
At various places in Mississippi, the memory of the American Civil War is kept alive (including Vicksburg National Military Park). Beautiful mansions date from before that time in Vicksburg and Matchez, among others. For the blues lover there is Greenville with the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival (September) and Clarksdale with the Delta Blues Museum. Natural beauty includes the Gulf Island National Seashore and the Matchez Trace Parkway (an old colonial route).
Hernan(do) de Soto was the first white person to travel this area (1539). The Frenchman La Salle, when he reached the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1682, seized this area for France, and d’Iberville founded Fort Maurepas in 1699 near present-day Biloxi. Mississippi was part of the French colony of Louisiana. It suddenly became known in Europe through the speculation of the Scotsman John Law and his Mississippi company. In 1763 the area came under English rule, in 1779 it was occupied by Spain and only in 1795 it was officially ceded to the United States.
In 1798 Mississippi Territory was formed, in 1817 the territory was admitted to the Union as the 20th state. Jackson became the capital in 1822. Mississippi became a state where cotton became the main product and slavery was common. It was among the first states to secede from the Union in 1861, and a native of the state, Jefferson Davis, became president of the Confederate States. After the American Civil War, Mississippi was under Northern military rule until 1870, but a Reconstruction government ruled until 1875.
At the end of the 19th century, a social revolution took place. The old planter caste lost its power in the elections. The poor whites, small farmers, craftsmen, etc., came to power and implemented a number of social reforms, but they also turned more fiercely against the black population. From this time date the far-reaching measures of segregation, which were soon followed in the other southern states. Close-minded figures like James K. Vardaman and Theodore G. Bilbo were the rulers of the state. Some progress seemed to be made during the New Deal period, but Mississippi remained the poorest and least developed state in the Union, with a large proportion of the population being black (43%). The battle over integration, sparked off by the Supreme Court ruling in 1954,
During the 1960s, attitudes toward blacks began to moderate as investors kept away from Mississippi’s unfavorable reputation in the rest of the country, leading to economic decline.