All About Laurel, Mississippi Geographic Area
Mississippi i/ˌmɪsɨˈsɪpi/ is a state located in the Southern United States.
The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary and comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi ("Great River"). Jackson is the state capital and largest city, with a population of around 175,000 people. The state overall has a population of around 3 million people. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and the 31st most populous of the 50 United States. On multiple other rankings, however, Mississippi ranks last of all states, such as in health, educational attainment, and median household income. Mississippi has been ranked the most religious state in the country since 2011.
The state is heavily forested outside of the Mississippi Delta area, which was cleared for cotton cultivation in the 19th century. Today, its catfish aquaculture farms produce the majority of farm-raised catfish consumed in the United States.
Mississippi is bordered on the north by Tennessee, on the east by Alabama, on the south by Louisiana and a narrow coast on the Gulf of Mexico; and on the west, across the Mississippi River, by Louisiana and Arkansas.
In addition to its namesake, major rivers in Mississippi include the Big Black River, the Pearl River, the Yazoo River, the Pascagoula River, and the Tombigbee River. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoir, Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake, and Grenada Lake. The largest lake in Mississippi is Sardis Lake.
The state of Mississippi is entirely composed of lowlands, the highest point being Woodall Mountain, in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, 807 feet (246 m) above sea level. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulf 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. Louis, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico proper by the shallow Mississippi Sound, which is partially sheltered by Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, East and West Ship Islands, Deer Island, Round Island, and Cat Island.
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 Vicksburg. The region has rich soil, partly made up of silt which had been regularly deposited by the flood waters of the Mississippi River.
Areas under the management of the National Park Service include:
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 20,000 but fewer than 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 10,000 but fewer than 20,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2010):
(See: Lists of cities, towns and villages, census-designated places, metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and counties in Mississippi)
Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate with long summers and short, mild winters. Temperatures average about 81°F (about 27°C) in July and about 48 °F (about 9 °C) in January. The temperature varies little statewide in the summer; however, 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 Corinth in the northeast, to 115 °F (46.1 °C), in 1930, at Holly Springs in the north. Heavy snowfall is possible across the state, such as during the New Year's Eve 1963 snowstorm. Yearly precipitation generally increases from north to south, with the regions closer to the Gulf being the most humid. Thus, Clarksdale, in the northwest, gets about 50 inches (about 1,270 mm) of precipitation annually and Biloxi, in the south, about 61 inches (about 1,550 mm). Small amounts of snow fall in northern and central Mississippi; snow is occasional in 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, were the most devastating hurricanes to hit the state, both causing nearly total storm surge destruction around Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. 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 U.S. 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 seven F5 tornadoes have been recorded in the state.
Mississippi is heavily forested, with over half of the state's area covered by wild trees, including mostly pine, as well as cottonwood, elm, hickory, oak, pecan, sweetgum and tupelo.
Due to seasonal flooding, possible from December to June, the Mississippi River created a fertile floodplain in the Mississippi Delta, including tributaries. Slaves built levees along the Mississippi River to control 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, who immigrated in high numbers in the 1840s, 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 who were 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.
Flooding has been an integral part of Mississippi history, but clearing of the land for cultivation and to supply fuel for steamboats took away the absorption of trees and undergrowth. 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 1882 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 Arkansas.
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 U.S. 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 22 feet (6.7 m) in the 1920s. Scientists now understand the levees have increased flooding, and the region was severely damaged due to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. There were losses of millions of dollars in property, stock and crops. The most damage occurred in the lower Delta, including Washington and Bolivar counties.
Even as scientific knowledge about the Mississippi River has grown, upstream development and the consequences of the levees have caused more severe flooding in some years. Scientists now understand that the widespread clearing of land and building of the levees have changed the nature of the river by removing the natural protection of wetlands and forest cover and strengthening the current. The state and federal governments have been struggling for the best approaches to restore some natural habitats in order to best interact with the original riverine ecology.
Near 10,000 BC Native Americans 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, succeeding cultures of the Woodland and Mississippian culture eras developed rich and complex agricultural societies, in which surplus supported the development of specialized trades. Both were mound builder cultures. Those of the Mississippian culture were the largest and most complex, and the peoples had a trading network spanning the continent from North to South. Their large earthworks, which expressed political and religious concepts, still stand throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.
Descendant Native American tribes of the Mississippian culture in the Southeast 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 the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, who passed through the northeast part of the state in 1540, in his second expedition to the New World. In April 1699, French colonists established the first European settlement at Fort Maurepas (also known as Old Biloxi), built in the vicinity of present-day Ocean Springs and settled by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. In 1716, the French founded Natchez 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 France"; the Spanish continued to claim part of the Gulf coast area (east of Mobile Bay) of present-day southern Alabama, in addition to the entire area of present-day Florida.
Through the eighteenth century, the area was ruled variously by Spanish, French, and British colonial governments. The colonists imported African slaves as laborers. Under French and Spanish rule, there developed a class of free people of color (gens de couleur libres), mostly multiracial descendants of European men and enslaved women, and their children. In the early days the French and Spanish colonists were chiefly men. Even as more European women joined the settlements, the men had interracial unions among women of African descent (and increasingly, also European descent), both before and after marriages to European women. Often the European men would help their multiracial children get educated or have apprenticeships for trades, and sometimes settled property on them; they sometimes freed the mothers and their children if enslaved. With this social capital, the free people of color became artisans, sometimes educated merchants and property owners, forming a third class between the Europeans and most enslaved Africans in the French and Spanish settlements, although not so large a community as in New Orleans. After Great Britain's victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the French surrendered the Mississippi area to them under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763).
After the American Revolution, this area became part of the new United States of America. The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina. 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 European Americans, who were mostly migrants from other Southern states. Many slaveholders brought slaves with them or purchased them through the internal slave market, especially New Orleans. They transported nearly one million slaves to the Deep South, including Mississippi, in a forced internal migration that broke up many slave families of the Upper South, where planters were selling excess slaves. The Southerners imposed their slave laws and restricted the rights of free blacks, according to their view of white supremacy.
Southern slave codes did make the willful killing of a slave illegal in most cases. For example, the 1860 Mississippi case of Oliver v. State charged the defendant with murdering his own slave. Beginning in 1822, slaves in Mississippi were protected by law from cruel and unusual punishment by their owners.
On December 10, 1817, Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union. David Holmes was elected as the first governor of the state. Plantations were developed primarily along the rivers, where waterfront gave them access to the major transportation routes. This is also where early towns developed, linked by the steamboats that carried commercial products and crops to markets. The backcountry remained largely undeveloped frontier.
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. They used the profits to buy more cotton land and more 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 the war, Union and Confederate forces struggled over dominance on the Mississippi River, critical to supply routes and commerce. More than 80,000 Mississippians fought in the Civil War, and casualties were extremely heavy. Union General Ulysses S. Grant's long siege of Vicksburg finally gained the Union control in 1863.
During Reconstruction, the first Mississippi constitutional convention in 1868, with delegates both black and white, framed a constitution whose major elements would last for 22 years. The convention was the first political organization to include African-American representatives, 17 among the 100 members. Some were freedmen, but others were free blacks who had migrated from the North. 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, a change that 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 late 19th century and a constitution in 1890 that essentially disenfranchised blacks, its history was more complex. Because the Mississippi Delta contained so much fertile bottomland that 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.
Around the start of the 20th 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 which they had developed by personal labor.
White legislators created a new constitution in 1890, with electoral and voter registration provisions that effectively disenfranchised 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 in the late 19th century. Together with Jim Crow laws, the increased frequency of lynchings beginning in the 1890s as whites worked to impose supremacy, failure of the cotton crops due to boll weevil infestation, and 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.
In 1900, blacks numbered in the state and comprised 50+ percent of the population. 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. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York. 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.
In the early 20th century, some industries were established in Mississippi, but jobs were generally restricted to whites, including child workers. The lack of jobs also drove some southern whites north to cities such as Chicago seeking employment. The state depended on agriculture, but mechanization put many farm laborers out of work.
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 California, where the buildup of the defense industry offered higher paying jobs to African Americans.
Blacks and whites in 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, many of them African American, 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.
So many African Americans left in the Great Migration that they became a minority after the 1930s. In 1960 they made up 42% of the state's population. The white administered, discriminatory voter registration processes had persisted, preventing most of them from voting, due to provisions of the 1890 state constitution. During the Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi was a center of activity, based in black churches, to educate and register black voters. Students and community organizers from across the country came to help register black voters and establish Freedom Schools. Resistance and the 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 (most notably the murder of three civil rights activists in 1964 during the Freedom Summer campaign) gained Mississippi a reputation in the 1960s as a reactionary state. African Americans in the state began to exercise their franchise in the mid-1960s, after passage of federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 ending segregation and enforcing constitutional voting rights.
In 1966, the state was the last to repeal officially statewide prohibition of alcohol. Prior to that, Mississippi had taxed the illegal alcohol brought in by bootleggers. Governor Paul Johnson urged repeal and the sheriff "raided the annual Junior League Mardi Gras ball at the Jackson Country Club, breaking open the liquor cabinet and carting off the Champagne before a startled crowd of nobility and high-ranking state officials."
The state repealed its ban on interracial marriage (also known as miscegenation) in 1987 (which the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional in 1967). It repealed the segregationist-era poll tax in 1989. In 1995, it symbolically ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which had abolished slavery in 1865. Though ratified in 1995, the state never officially notified the U.S. archivist, which kept the ratification unofficial until 2013, when Ken Sullivan contacted the office of Secretary of State of Mississippi, Delbert Hosemann, who agreed to file the paperwork and make it official. In 2009, the legislature passed a bill to repeal other discriminatory civil rights laws, which 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 90 miles (145 km) of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.
The center of population of Mississippi is located in Leake County, in the town of Lena.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Mississippi was 2,994,079 on July 1, 2014, a 0.9% increase since the 2010 United States Census. From 2000 to 2014, the United States Census Bureau reported that Mississippi had the highest rate of increase of mixed-race population, up 70 percent in the decade.
The total population has not increased significantly, but is young, and some of the change in percentage of those who identify as mixed race is due to new births. But, it appears to reflect mostly residents who have chosen to identify as more than one race, who in earlier years may have identified as only one ethnicity, a carryover from days of racial segregation, when a binary system was imposed, as well as from the civil rights era, when people of African descent banded together to win their civil rights and achieve political power. As the demographer William Frey noted, "In Mississippi, I think it's changed from within." Historically in Mississippi, after Indian removal in the 1830s, the major groups were black (African American, many of whom have had European ancestry) and white (primarily European American). Matthew Snipp, also a demographer, commented on the changes of increased identification as being of more than one race: "In a sense, they're rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed."
After having comprised a majority of the state's population since well before the Civil War and through the 1930s, today African Americans comprise approximately 37 percent of the population, with most having ancestors who were enslaved and forcibly transported from Africa and the Upper South in the 19th century to work on developing the area's new plantations. Many also have numerous ancestors who were European, as there were many children born of mixed relationships. Some also have Native American ancestry. Mississippi was part of the Black Belt, and had a majority-black population from the antebellum years until the 1930s. During the first half of the 20th century, a total of nearly 400,000 African Americans left the state during the Great Migration, for opportunities in the North, Midwest and West.
In 2004, voters in Mississippi approved Amendment 1, amending the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage; the measure passed with 86% of the vote, the highest margin of victory of any such amendment in the nation. However, according to the 2010 census, approximately 33% of households led by same-sex couples included at least one child, the highest such percentage in the nation. The state's sodomy law criminalized consensual sex between adults of the same gender until 2003, when such laws were voided by the Supreme Court.
At the 2010 U.S. census, the racial makeup of the population was:
Ethnically, 2.7% of the total population, among all racial groups, was of Hispanic or Latino origin (they may be of any race). As of 2011, 53.8% of Mississippi's population younger than age 1 were minorities, meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white. For more information on racial and ethnic classifications in the United States see race and ethnicity in the United States Census.
Americans of Scots-Irish, English and Scottish ancestry are present throughout the state. People with ancestry in those ethnic groups are thought to be much larger than are reported. English, Scottish and Scots-Irish are generally the most under-reported ancestry groups in both the South Atlantic States and the East South Central States. The historian David Hackett Fischer estimated that a minimum 20% of Mississippi's population is of English ancestry, though the figure is probably much higher, and another large percentage is of Scots ancestry. Many Mississippians of English and Scottish stock identify on questionnaires simply as American, because their families have been in North America for so long, in many cases since the early 17th century. In the 1980 census 656,371 Mississippians out of a total of 1,946,775 claimed to be of English ancestry, making them 38% of the state at the time.
On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed between the U.S. Government and the Choctaw. The Choctaw agreed to sell their traditional homelands in Mississippi and Alabama, for compensation and removal to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). This opened up land for sale to European-American immigrant settlement. Article 14 in the treaty allowed those Choctaw who chose to remain in the state to become U.S. citizens, the second major non-European ethnic group to do so (the Cherokee were the first). Today approximately 9,500 Choctaw live in Neshoba, Newton, Leake, and Jones counties. Federally recognized tribes include the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
From before the Civil War 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 for the North and West during the 1940s and after, the African-American population declined markedly.
The state in 2010 had the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation. Recently, the African-American percentage of population has begun to increase due mainly to a younger population than the whites (the total fertility rates of the two races are approximately equal). Due to patterns of settlement, in almost all of Mississippi's public school districts, a majority of students are of ethnic African descent, while often also of European-American descent. African Americans are the majority ethnic group in the northwestern Yazoo Delta, and the southwestern and the central parts of the state. These are areas where, historically, African Americans owned land as farmers in the 19th century following the Civil War, or worked on cotton plantations and farms.
People of French Creole ancestry form the largest demographic group in Hancock County on the Gulf Coast. The African-American; Choctaw, mostly in Neshoba County; and Chinese-American portions of the population are almost entirely native born.
Some ethnic Chinese were recruited as indentured laborers from Cuba during the 1870s and later 19th century. The majority entering the state immigrated directly from China to Mississippi between 1910–1930, when 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. As the small towns declined, many ethnic Chinese moved to cities or left the state.
In the early 1980s many Vietnamese immigrated to Mississippi and other states on the Gulf of Mexico for fishing-related work.
From 2000 to 2012, the United States Census Bureau reported that Mississippi had the highest rate of increase of mixed-race population, up 70 percent in the decade, although the population has not markedly increased. The change reflects new births among a young population, but also people who have chosen to identify as multiracial, who in earlier years may have identified as only one ethnicity. One demographer said, "In a sense, they're rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed."
Teenage pregnancy is a problem in Mississippi. The latest data shows that Mississippi has the highest teenage birth rate in the United States. Mississippi's rate is more than 60 percent above the U.S. average. A special Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force is working on a Plan to Prevent and Reduce Teen Pregnancy in Mississippi.
In 2000, 96.4% of Mississippi residents five years old and older spoke only English in the home, a decrease from 97.2% in 1990. English is largely Southern American English, with some South Midland speech in northern and eastern Mississippi. There is a common absence of final /r/ and the lengthening and weakening of the diphthongs /ai/ and /oi/ as in 'ride' and 'oil'. South Midland terms in northern Mississippi include: tow sack (burlap bag), dog irons (andirons), plum peach (clingstone peach), snake doctor (dragonfly), and stone wall (rock fence).
Under French and Spanish rule beginning in the 17th century, the few Europeans in what is now Mississippi were Roman Catholics. The growth of the cotton culture after 1815 brought in tens of thousands of Anglo-American settlers each year, most of whom were Protestants from Southeastern states. Due to such migration, there was rapid growth in Protestant churches, especially Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist.
The revivals of the Great Awakening in the late 18th and early 19th centuries initially attracted the "plain folk" by reaching out to all members of society, including women and blacks. Both slaves and free blacks were welcomed into Methodist and Baptist churches. Independent black Baptist churches were established before 1800 in Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia, and later developed in Mississippi as well.
In the post-Civil War years, religion became even more influential as the South became known as the "Bible Belt". Freedmen withdrew from white-run churches in favor of setting up their own. The majority of blacks left the Southern Baptist Church, and by 1895 had established numerous black Baptist state associations and the National Baptist Convention of black churches. They wanted to be independent of white supervision. In addition, independent black denominations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (established in New York City), sent missionaries to the South in the postwar years. They quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of converts and founded new churches across the South. Southern congregations brought their own influences to those denominations as well.
By 1900 many white ministers, especially in the towns, subscribed to the Social Gospel movement, which attempted to apply Christian ethics to social and economic needs of the day. Many strongly supported Prohibition, believing it would help alleviate and prevent many sins.
African-American Baptist churches grew to include more than twice the number of members as their white Baptist counterparts. The African-American call for social equality resonated throughout the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s. The American Civil Rights Movement had many roots in religion, and the strong community of churches helped supply volunteers and moral purpose for their activism. The end of legal segregation and Jim Crow led to the integration of some churches, but most today remain divided along racial lines. In more diverse communities, such as Hattiesburg, some churches have multiracial congregations. Since the 1970s, fundamentalist conservative churches have grown rapidly, fueling Mississippi's conservative political trends among whites. In 1973 when the Presbyterian Church in America formed a significant number of conservative Presbyterian congregations joined. As of 2010 Mississippi remained a stronghold of the denomination. The state has the highest adherence rate of the PCA in 2010 with 121 congregations and 18,500 members. It is among the few states where the PCA has higher membership than the PC(USA). According to the Association of Religion Data Archives(ARDA) in 2010 the Southern Baptist Convention had 907,384 adherents and was the largest religious denomination in the state, followed by the United Methodist Church with 204,165; and the Roman Catholic Church with 112,488. Other religions have a small presence in Mississippi; as of 2010, there were 5,012 Muslims, 4,389 Hindus and 816 Bahá'í.
Public opinion polls have consistently ranked Mississippi as the most religious state in the United States, with 59% of Mississippians considering themselves "very religious". The same survey also found that 11% of the population were non-Religious. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 63% of Mississippians said that they attended church weekly or almost weekly - the highest percentage of all states (US average was 42%, and the lowest percentage was in Vermont at 23%). Another 2008 Gallup poll found that 85% of Mississippians considered religion an important part of their daily lives, also the highest figure among all states (US average 65%).
The 2010 United States census counted 6,286 same-sex unmarried-partner households in Mississippi, an increase of 1,512 since the 2000 United States census. 33% contained at least one child, giving Mississippi the distinction of leading the nation in the percentage of same-sex couples raising children. Mississippi 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 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.
The state is ranked 50th or last place among all the states for health care, 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 such. 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 inactivity 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.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Mississippi's total state product in 2010 was $98 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.
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 Democrats regained control, they passed the 1890 constitution that discouraged corporate industrial development in favor of rural agriculture, a legacy that would slow the state's progress for years.
Before the Civil War, Mississippi was the fifth-wealthiest state in the nation, its 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.
After the Civil War, 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 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) 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. Louis, Gulfport and Biloxi, and the Mississippi River towns of Tunica (the third largest gaming area in the United States), Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez. Before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Mississippi was the second largest gambling state in the Union, after Nevada and ahead of New Jersey. An estimated $500,000 per day in tax revenue was lost following Hurricane Katrina's severe damage to several coastal casinos in Biloxi in August 2005. In 2012, Mississippi had the sixth largest gambling revenue of any state, with $2.25 billion. Federally recognized Native American tribes have established gaming casinos on their reservations, which are yielding revenue to support education and economic development.
Momentum Mississippi, a statewide, public–private partnership dedicated to the development of economic and employment opportunities in Mississippi, was adopted in 2005.
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 800 feet (240 m) of the water). The only exception is in Harrison County, 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%. A local sales tax of 2.5% is levied in Tupelo. 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. The state's sizable poultry industry has faced similar challenges in its transition from family-run farms to large mechanized operations. 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.
As of January 2010, the state's unemployment rate was 10.9%.
With Mississippi's fiscal conservatism, in which Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and other social programs are often cut, eligibility requirements are tightened, and stricter employment criteria are imposed, Mississippi ranks as having the 2nd highest ratio of spending to tax receipts of any state. In 2005, Mississippi citizens received approximately $2.02 per dollar of taxes in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state 2nd highest nationally, and represents an increase from 1995, when Mississippi received $1.54 per dollar of taxes in federal spending and was 3rd highest nationally. It should be noted, however, that this figure comes from the year that large portions of the state were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, leading to large influxes of federal aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A proportion of federal spending in Mississippi is directed toward large federal installations such as Camp Shelby, John C. Stennis Space Center, Meridian Naval Air Station, Columbus Air Force Base, and Keesler Air Force Base. Three of these installations are located in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina.
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 Phil Bryant (R). The Lieutenant Governor, currently Tate Reeves (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 Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia). Mississippi holds elections for these offices every four years, always in the year preceding Presidential elections, the most recent of which was in 2011.
Uniquely, Mississippi was the last state to give shares of its popular vote exceeding 85% and 90% to one candidate in a presidential election: in 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt won nearly 94% of Mississippi's popular vote, and in 1964, Barry M. Goldwater carried the state with 87% of votes.
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.
Mississippi is one of 32 states which has capital punishment as a legal sentence (see Capital punishment in Mississippi).
Section 265 of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi declares that "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state."
Mississippi has two international airports, one in Jackson (Jackson-Evers International Airport) and one in Gulfport (Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport)
Mississippi is served by nine 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 two of the United States Class I railroads serve Mississippi (the exceptions are the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific):
Until the Civil War era, Mississippi had a small number of schools and no educational institutions for African Americans. The first school for black people was established in 1862.
During Reconstruction in 1871, 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 schools in Mississippi until the 1960s, when they began to be integrated following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court 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.
Mississippi is currently ranked at the bottom of the American Human Development Index.
Jackson, the state's capital city, houses the state residential school for deaf and hard of hearing students. The Mississippi School for the Deaf was established by the state legislature in 1854.
The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) is a public residential high school for academically gifted students located in Columbus, Mississippi on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women. MSMS was founded in 1987 by appropriations from the Mississippi Legislature and is the fourth public, residential high school for academically gifted students in the United States. The school only enrolls students in the last two years of high school. Tenth grade students from across the state interested in the school apply and are selected to attend.
The Mississippi School of the Arts (MSA) is an upper high school of literary, visual, and performing arts on the historic Whitworth College Campus in Brookhaven, Mississippi, about sixty miles (100 km) south of Jackson, Mississippi. MSA teaches 11th and 12th grade students. The site has 6 buildings designated as Mississippi Landmarks, and the campus is also notable as being on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The renovation or construction of the campus facilities, as a historic site, are ongoing and rely upon additional funding to make capital improvements.
The Mississippi School of the Arts provides advanced programs of study in visual arts, vocal music, theatre, dance, and literary arts for "artistically gifted" 11th/12th grade students from throughout Mississippi, within a residential school. The proposed curriculum includes instrumental music majors. The curriculum at MSA focuses on the arts and humanities. A comprehensive residential and academic curriculum prepares students for further studies or for the pursuit of employment. Some non-arts courses (some math, science, etc.) are taught in conjunction with Brookhaven High School, 6 blocks away, to provide a wider curriculum. Students apply for admission during their sophomore year at other schools.
While Mississippi has been especially known for its music and literature, it has embraced other forms of art. 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 Starkville, is the first and oldest in the state.
George Ohr, known as the "Mad Potter of Biloxi" and the father of abstract expressionism in pottery, lived and worked in Biloxi, MS.
The New Southern View Ezine, first published in the summer of 2001, is the state's first online magazine.
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 Chicago and created new forms of jazz and other genres there.
Jimmie Rodgers, a native of Meridian and guitarist/singer/songwriter known as the "Father of Country Music", played a significant role in the development of the blues. He and Chester Arthur Burnett were friends and admirers of each other's music. 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 the United States, 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 Clarksdale'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 Museum there is visited by tourists from all over the world. Close by is "Ground Zero", a contemporary blues club and restaurant co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman.
Elvis Presley, who created a sensation in the 1950s as a crossover artist and contributed to rock 'n' roll, was a native of Tupelo. From opera star Leontyne Price to the alternative rock band 3 Doors Down, to gulf and western singer Jimmy Buffett, modern rock/jazz/world music guitarist-producer Clifton Hyde, to rappers David Banner, Big K.R.I.T. and Afroman, Mississippi musicians have been significant in all genres.
Mississippi has produced a number of notable and famous individuals, especially in the realm of music and literature. Among the most notable are: