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Mississippi

river region south land

Mississippi, state in the Deep South region of the United States; bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Louisiana to the south and west, and Arkansas to the west.

Land and climate

Mississippi has 2 main land regions. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain, often called “the Delta,” lies on the state's western edge along the Mississippi River. Its rich lowlands, built up by river deposits, support good cotton and soybean crops. Small, slow-moving streams called bayous connect this region's lakes and rivers. The rest of the state lies in the East Gulf Coastal Plain, which consists of low, rolling hills with some prairie and lowland. Pine forests cover much of this region's southern portion; the northeast is a fertile agricultural area. Forests, which originally covered nearly the entire state, now cover more than half of it. Mississippi's complex river system drains into the Gulf of Mexico—directly, or via the Mississippi River. Other large rivers include the Yazoo, Tallahatchie, Tombigbee, Pearl, and Pascagula. A system of levees (dikes) helps to control the lower Mississippi River during flood season. All of the state's larger lakes are man-made reservoirs. Mississippi has a warm, humid climate, with long, hot summers and short, mild winters. Principal cities are Jackson, Biloxi, and Meridian.

Economy

Mississippi's principal industries are manufacturing, food processing, seafood, government, and wholesale and retail trade. Cotton, though no longer “king,” remains the most important crop. Other important agricultural products include soybeans, catfish, and rice. Timber, petroleum, and natural gas are the main natural resources.

Government

Mississippi's present constitution was adopted in 1980. The governor serves a 4-year term. The state's legislature consists of 52 senators and 122 representatives; all serve 4-year terms. In the U.S. Congress, Mississippi is represented by 2 senators and 5 representatives.

History

Chickasaw, Natchez, and Choctaw were living in Mississippi when the first white settlers arrived. The first European to visit the area was de Soto, a Spanish explorer, in 1540. In 1683, the French explorer La Salle claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France. In 1763, after the French and Indian Wars, France ceded the region to Britain. After a series of border changes and land conflicts, Mississippi became the Union's 20th state in 1817. Indians had controlled most of the area throughout its territorial days, but whites had full control by 1840. By 1860, black slaves outnumbered the white population and Mississippi had become the Union's top cotton-producing state. The second state to secede from the Union, Mississippi was a leading member of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The state's economy was ruined by the war; Reconstruction and the postwar military government did nothing to restore it. Depression-era programs helped improve Mississippi's agriculture and industry somewhat; modest industrial growth continued during the 1940s and 1950s. During the 1960s, Mississippi was the scene of some of the worst violence in the civil-rights movement. Race relations improved during the 1970s and 1980s—as did the state's economy. But many farm workers are jobless, and many educated young people leave the state to seek employment elsewhere.

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