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Mississippi (MS) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Mississippi is a state in the Southern Gulf region of the United States, right along the Mississippi River where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It is a low-altitude, wet, and humid area that is frequently vulnerable to tropical storms.
Counties and Regions: Mississippi has a large number of counties, with eighty-two. It can also be divided into these general geographical regions:
- Golden Triangle (tri-city area)
- Mississippi Plain
- Mississippi Delta
- Mississippi Gulf Coast
- Natchez District
- Pine Belt
- Tennessee Valley
The state is also known for its rivers, as its rich soil is largely the result of the fact that it is mostly composed of river deltas. The most important rivers in Mississippi are as follows:
- Big Black River
- Chickasawhay River
- Leaf River
- Mississippi River
- Pascagoula River
- Pearl River
- Tallahatchie River
- Tombigbee River
- Yazoo River
Population: The population of Mississippi is nearly three million people, making it the 31st most populated state in the Union. Much of Mississippi does not have a very high population density, and a great deal of its land is better for agriculture than for habitation.
Major Cities: The biggest city in Mississippi is its capital, Jackson, with a population of more than one hundred and seventy-three thousand people. None of its other cities have more than seventy thousand citizens.
Story Behind the Name: The state of Mississippi is named after the all-important Mississippi River, the largest river in the United States. The name is likely adapted from a Native American Algonquian term meaning, unsurprisingly, “big river.”
History and Colonization: The region that is now the state of Mississippi was once home to a thriving civilization of Native Americans, who were descended from some of the first human beings to arrive on the North American continent millennia ago.
From its earliest days, the ugly institution of slavery had a strong foothold in the Mississippi region. Slaves from Africa were frequently brought to continental North America through the port cities on the Gulf Coast. Not only that, the type of land in the American South was excellent for agriculture, especially the huge cash crop of cotton. This led to the development of a plantation culture that used slave labor to support the romantic lifestyle of a luxurious upper class. A middle class of working whites and a diminishing population of mixed-race people rounded out this picture, all painting a portrait of a complicated and multifaceted society.
Mississippi was one of the key founders of the Confederate States of America at the start of the American Civil War. After the Confederacy’s defeat and the difficult years of Reconstruction, newly freed African-Americans enjoyed a brief period of increased property ownership and political representation in the state before a backlash in the late nineteenth century created brutal repression for them. Many African-Americans left Mississippi in the first half of the twentieth century as part of a vast migration from the South (known as the Great Migration), bringing much of Mississippi’s unique culture to northern cities such as Chicago, and resulting in the spread of world-changing musical styles like jazz and blues.
The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century was largely centered around the Mississippi region, targeting the state’s unusually repressive laws and regulations that were aimed at disenfranchising blacks. Mississippi is for this reason often thought of as backwards in some other parts of American society, but this stereotype has been lessening over the last several decades. The area’s rich culture contains the roots of many important American traditions in music and cuisine, and Mississippi remains one of the most important agricultural producers in the country.