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Nebraska (NE) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Nebraska is a Midwestern state that is made up entirely of a plains landscape. Despite some problems with droughts and grasshopper swarms, it is a prime location for agriculture and remains largely made up of farms.
Counties and Regions: Nebraska is comprised of 93 counties and straddles two time zones, the Central Time Zone and the Mountain Time Zone. Here are some of the more general regions of Nebraska:
- Nebraska Panhandle
- Northwest Nebraska
- Pine Ridge
- Rainwater Basin
- Sand Hills
- Southeast Nebraska
- Wildcat Hills
Population: Nebraska’s population is about 1,820,000, putting it in the bottom third of the country’s most populated states. With many of its citizens living in rural communities, it is also in the top ten least densely populated states.
Major Cities: The largest city in Nebraska is, without a doubt, the city of Omaha. This formal capital of the territory has more than 400,000 people, with more than 880,000 people in its metropolitan area. The current state capital, Lincoln, is the second-biggest city with a metropolitan area encompassing around 300,000 people.
Story Behind the Name: The name “Nebraska” was created from a Native American phrase that meant “flat water,” referring to the state’s Platte River.
History and Colonization: Nebraska, being in a relatively remote area of the United States, remained unsettled by Europeans for many years. Spanish and French explorers and traders passed through the region, but although the European powers made claims of ownership, they never sent troops to enforce them. The United States began setting up forts and trading posts in Nebraska after acquiring it as part of the Louisiana Purchase, but the non-native population remained low for many decades.
The numbers of white settlers in Nebraska increased as people streamed across the Oregon Trail and into California. The Native Americans slowly bartered away their lands or were pushed out by U.S. troops, to be replaced by American migrants and European immigrants looking to farm the territory’s rich soil. The Nebraska Territory was originally a huge chunk of land that encompassed several other present-day states, but in the years following the Civil War pieces were carved out to form other territories such as those of Idaho, Dakota, and Colorado.
Nebraska joined the Union during the American Civil War and contributed men and cavalry for the war effort, but no battles were fought in its territory. It was granted statehood shortly after the war, and soon saw a huge influx of settlers as the railroad system extended into the American Midwest. The land was parceled out to would-be farmers, and trade flourished at the railway stations and the towns that sprung up around them.
Nebraska was, and still remains, a primarily agricultural state, but a great deal of industrial growth occurred with the coming of World War II in the 1940s. Many African-Americans made their way to the state in search of factory jobs, and played a major role in the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement and the labor movements in cities like Omaha. Even today, Nebraska remains a center of populist and civil rights activities for several groups.