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State of Mississippi

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Derived from the Ojibwa Indian words misi sipi, meaning great river.

NICKNAME: The Magnolia State.

CAPITAL: Jackson.

ENTERED UNION: 10 December 1817 (20th).

SONG: "Go, Mississippi."

MOTTO: Virtute et armis (By valor and arms).

COAT OF ARMS: An American eagle clutches an olive branch and a quiver of arrows in its talons.

FLAG: Crossed blue bars, on a red field, bordered with white and emblazoned with 13 white starsthe motif of the Confederate battle flagcover the upper left corner. The field consists of three stripes of equal width, blue, white, and red.

OFFICIAL SEAL: The seal consists of the coat of arms surrounded by the words "The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi."

BIRD: Mockingbird; wood duck (waterfowl).

FISH: Largemouth or black bass.

FLOWER: Magnolia.

TREE: Magnolia.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Washington's Birthday, 3rd Monday in February; Confederate Memorial Day, last Monday in April; Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis's Birthday, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Veterans' Day and Armistice Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT.


Located in the eastern south-central United States, Mississippi ranks 32nd in size among the 50 states.

The total area of Mississippi is 47,689 sq mi (123,514 sq km), of which land takes up 47,233 sq mi (122,333 sq km) and inland water 456 sq mi (1,181 sq km). Mississippi's maximum e-w extension is 188 mi (303 km); its greatest n-s distance is 352 mi (566 km).

Mississippi is bordered on the n by Tennessee; on the e by Alabama; on the s by the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana; and on the w by Louisiana (with the line partially formed by the Pearl and Mississippi rivers) and Arkansas (with the line formed by the Mississippi River). Several small islands lie off the coast.

The total boundary length of Mississippi is 1,015 mi (1,634 km). The state's geographic center is in Leake County, 9 mi (14 km) wnw of Carthage.


Mississippi lies entirely within two lowland plains. Extending eastward from the Mississippi River, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, popularly known as the Delta, is very narrow south of Vicksburg but stretches as much as a third of the way across the state farther north. The Gulf Coastal Plain, covering the rest of the state, includes several subregions, of which the Red Clay Hills of north-central Mississippi and the Piney Woods of the south and southeast are the most extensive. Mississippi's generally hilly landscape ascends from sea level at the Gulf of Mexico to reach its maximum elevation, 806 ft (246 m), at Woodall Mountain, in the extreme northeastern corner of the state. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 300 ft (92 m).

The state's largest lakesGrenada, Sardis, Enid, and Arkabutlaare all manmade. Numerous smaller lakescalled oxbow lakes because of their curved shapeextend along the western edge of the state; once part of the Mississippi River, they were formed when the river changed its course. Mississippi's longest inland river, the Pearl, flows about 490 mi (790 km) from the eastern center of the state to the Gulf of Mexico, its lower reaches forming part of the border with Louisiana. The Big Black River, some 330 mi (530 km) long, begins in the northeast and cuts diagonally across the state, joining the Mississippi about 20 mi (32 km) below Vicksburg. Formed by the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha rivers at Greenwood, the Yazoo flows 189 mi (304 km) southwest to the Mississippi just above Vicksburg.


Mississippi has short winters and long, humid summers. Summer temperatures vary little from one part of the state to another. Biloxi, on the Gulf coast, averages 82°f (28°c) in July, while Oxford, in the north-central part of the state, averages 80°f (27°c). During the winter, however, because of the temperate influence of the Gulf of Mexico, the southern coast is much warmer than the north; in January, Biloxi averages 51°f (10°c) to Oxford's 44°f (6°c). The lowest temperature ever recorded in Mississippi was 19°f (28°c) on 30 January 1966 in Corinth; the highest, 115°f (46°c), was set on 29 July 1930 at Holly Springs.

Precipitation in Mississippi increases from north to south. The north-central region averages 53 in (135 cm) of precipitation a year; the coastal region, 62 in (157 cm). Annual precipitation at Jackson is about 56 in (142 cm). Some snow falls in northern and central sections. Mississippi lies in the path of hurricanes moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico during the late summer and fall. On 17-18 August 1969, Hurricane Camille ripped into Biloxi and Gulfport and caused more than 100 deaths throughout the state. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the same region causing floodwater surges of over 30 ft (9 m). Biloxi and Gulfport suffered severe damage to homes and businesses. As of late 2005, the estimated death toll for the cities and the rest of the county was over 100 people. One month later, Hurricane Rita passed through the area, causing severe flooding inland as well as near the coastal regions of the state. Two tornado alleys cross Mississippi from the southwest to northeast, from Vicksburg to Oxford and McComb to Tupelo.


Post and white oaks, hickory, maple, and magnolia grow in the forests of the uplands; various willows and gums (including the tupelo) in the Delta; and longleaf pine in the Piney Woods. Characteristic wild flowers include the green Virginia creeper, black-eyed Susan, and Cherokee rose. In April 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife listed Price's potato-bean as a threatened species. The Louisiana quillwort, pondberry, and American chaffseed were listed as endangered plant species the same year.

Common among the state's mammals are the opossum, eastern mole, armadillo, coyote, mink, white-tailed deer, striped skunk, and diverse bats and mice. Birds include varieties of wren, thrush, warbler, vireo, and hawk, along with numerous waterfowl and seabirds, Franklin's gull, the common loon, and the wood stork among them. Black bass, perch, and mullet are common freshwater fish. Rare species in Mississippi include the hoary bat, American oystercatcher, mole salamander, pigmy killifish, Yazoo darker, and five species of crayfish. Listed as threatened or endangered in 2006 were 30 species of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates), including the American and Louisiana black bears, eastern indigo snake, Indiana bat, Mississippi sandhill crane, bald eagle, Mississippi gopher frog, brown pelican, red-cockaded woodpecker, five species of sea turtle, and the bayou darter.


Except for the drinking water program, housed in the State Health Department, and regulation of noncommercial oil field waste disposal activities, assigned to the State Oil and Gas Board, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is responsible for environmental regulatory programs in the state. MDEQ regulates surface and groundwater withdrawals through its Office of Land and Water Resources and surface mining reclamation through its Office of Geology. All other environmental regulatory programs, including those federal regulatory programs delegated to Mississippi by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are administered through MDEQ's Office of Pollution Control. The state has primacy for almost all federally delegable programs; the one notable exception is the federal hazardous waste corrective action program (under the federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984). MDEQ implements one of the premier Pollution Prevention programs in the nation.

In 1996, wetlands accounted for 13% of the state's lands. The Natural Heritage Program helps manage these wetlands.

In 2003, 63.1 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state. In 2003, Mississippi had 83 hazardous waste sites listed in the EPA database, three of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including American Creosote Works, Inc, Davis Timber Company, and Picayune Wood Treating Site. In 2005, the EPA spent over $1.5 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $9.7 million for the clean water revolving loan fund, as well as over $9 million dollars in funds for other water quality and protection projects.


Mississippi ranked 31st in population in the United States with an estimated total of 2,921,088 in 2005, an increase of 2.7% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Mississippi's population grew from 2,573,216 to 2,844,658, an increase of 10.5%. The population was projected to reach 3.01 million by 2015 and 3.06 million by 2025.

After remaining virtually level for 30 years, Mississippi's population during the 1970s grew 13.7%, but increased only 2.1% from 1980 to 1990. In 2004, the median age of Mississippians was 34.9. In the same year, 25.8% of the on under the age of 18 while 12.2% was age 65 or older. The population density in 2004 was 23.9 persons per sq km (61.9 persons per sq mi).

Mississippi remains one of the most rural states in the United States, although the urban population has increased fivefold since 1920, when only 13% of state residents lived in cities. Mississippi's largest city, Jackson, had an estimated 2004 population of 179,298, down from 193,097 in 1994. Biloxi and Gulfport are other major cities with large populations. The Jackson metropolitan area had an estimated population of 517,275 in 2004.


Since 1860, blacks have constituted a larger proportion of the population of Mississippi than of any other state. By the end of the 1830s, blacks outnumbered whites 52% to 48%, and from the 1860s through the early 20th century, they made up about three-fifths of the population. Because of out-migration, the proportion of black Mississippians declined to about 36% in 2000 (still the highest in the country). By 2004, 36.8% of the population was black. In 2000, the state had 1,746,099 whites, 1,033,809 blacks, 18,626 Asians, 11,652 American Indians, and 667 Pacific Islanders. In 2000, there were 39,569 (1.4%) Hispanics and Latinos. In 2004, 0.7% of the population was Asian and 1.7% Hispanic or Latino. That year, 0.6% of the population reported origin of two or more races.

Until the 1940s, the Chinese, who numbered 3,099 in 2000, were an intermediate stratum between blacks and whites in the social hierarchy of the Delta Counties. There also were 5,387 Vietnamese and 2,608 Filipinos in 2000. Although the number of foreign-born almost tripled in the 1970s, Mississippi still had the nation's smallest percentage of foreign-born residents (1.4%, or 39,908) in 2000.

Mississippi has only a small American Indian population0.4% of the state's population in 2000 (11,652). Many of them live on the Choctaw reservation in the east-central region. In 2004, 0.5% of the population was American Indian.


English in the state is largely Southern, with some South Midland speech in northern and eastern Mississippi because of population drift from Tennessee. Typical are the 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). In the eastern section are found jew's harp (harmonica) and croker sack (burlap bag). Southern speech in the southern half features gallery for porch, mosquito hawk for dragonfly, and press peach for clingstone peach. Louisiana French has contributed armoire (wardrobe).

In 2000, 96.4% of Mississippi residents five years old and older spoke only English in the home, down from 97.2% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Native North American languages" includes Apache, Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Keres, Pima, and Yupik.

Population 5 years and over 2,641,453 100.0
  Speak only English 2,545,931 96.4
  Speak a language other than English 95,522 3.6
Speak a language other than English 95,522 3.6
  Spanish or Spanish, Creole 50,515 1.9
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 10,826 0.4
  Other Native North American languages 5,654 0.2
  German 5,501 0.2
  Vietnamese 4,961 0.2
  Chinese 2,506 0.1
  Tagalog 2,005 0.1
  Korean 1,485 0.1
  Italian 1,336 0.1
  Arabic 1,081 0.0


Protestants have dominated Mississippi since the late 18th century. The Baptists are the leading denomination and many adherents are fundamentalists. Partly because of the strong church influence, Mississippi was among the first states to enact prohibition and among the last to repeal it.

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention was the largest denomination in the state with 916,440 known adherents; there were 14,947 new members in 2002. The United Methodist Church is considered to be the second-largest denomination in the state, with 189,149 members in 2004. Also in 2004, the Roman Catholic Church reported a statewide membership of about 124,150. In 2000, there were an estimated 3,919 Muslims and about 1,400 Jews. Over 1.2 million people (about 45.4% of the population) did not claim any religious affiliation in 2000.


At the end of 2003, there were 2,658 rail mi (4,279 km) of mainline railroad track in Mississippi, including 2,016 mi (3,245 km) operated by five Class I railroads, which in 2003, were the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Illinois Central Gulf, Kansas City Southern, and Norfolk Southern lines. As of 2006, Amtrak provided rail passenger service via its City of New Orleans train, serving the cities of Greenwood, Yazoo, Jackson, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, and McComb on its route between Chicago and New Orleans, and the Crescent, serving Meridian, Laurel, Hattiesburg, and Picayune in Mississippi, on its route between Atlanta and New Orleans.

Mississippi had 74,129 mi (119,347 km) of public roads as of 2004. Interstate highways 55, running north-south, and 20, running east-west, intersect at Jackson. I-220 provides a loop from I-55 north of Jackson to I-20 west of Jackson. I-10 runs across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I-110 provides a connector from I-10 to US Highway 90 in Biloxi. I-59 runs diagonally through the southeastern corner of Mississippi from Meridian to New Orleans.

Development of four-lane highways was financed by a "pay-as-you-go" public works program passed by the Mississippi legislature in 1987 to provide a four-lane highway within 30 minutes or 30 mi (48 km) of every citizen in the state. Originally, the $1.6 billion, three-phase agenda called for the creation of four lanes for 1,077 mi (1,733 km) of highway as of 2001. During the 1994 regular legislative session, an additional 619 mi (996 km), known as Phase IV, were added to the program at an expected cost of $1.3 billion. In 2004, there were 1,896,008 licensed drivers in Mississippi and 1.159 million registered motor vehicles, including some 1.113 million automobiles and 815,000 trucks of all types.

Mississippi's ports and waterways serve a surrounding 16-state market where nearly 40% of the nation's total population is located. Mississippi has two deepwater seaports, Gulfport and Pascagoula, both located on the Gulf of Mexico. In 2004, Gulfport handled 2.374 million tons of cargo, and Pascagoula handled 34.099 million tons, making it the 22nd-busiest port in the United States. Much of Pascagoula's heavy volume consists of oil and gas imports. Other ports located on the Gulf include Port Bienville in Hancock County and Biloxi in Harrison County. Biloxi handled 2.670 million tons of cargo in 2004.

The Mississippi River flows along the western border of the state, linking the Gulf of Mexico to inland river states as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Mississippi is the largest commercial river in the country and the third-largest river system in the world, and it carries the majority of the nation's inland waterway tonnage. Approximately 409 mi (658 km) of the Mississippi River flow through the state, with ports in Natchez, Vicksburg, Yazoo County, Greenville, and Rosedale. In 2004, the Port of Vicksburg handled 3.922 million tons of cargo, while the Port of Greenville handled 3.045 million tons.

To the east of Mississippi lies the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway, completed in 1984, which links the Tennessee and Ohio rivers with the Gulf of Mexico. Stretching 95 mi (153 km) through Mississippi from the northeast corner of the state down to a point just south of Columbus, the Tenn-Tom Waterway's overall length is 232 mi (373 km). Five local ports are located on the waterway: Yellow Creek, Itawamba, Amory, Aberdeen, and Columbus-Lowndes County. In 2004, Mississippi had 873 mi (1,405 km) of navigable inland waterways. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 47.446 million tons.

In 2005, Mississippi had a total of 243 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 191 airports, 51 heliports, and 1 STOLport (Short Take-Off and Landing). Jackson-Evers International Airport is the state's main air terminal. In 2004, the airport had 639,947 enplanements.


The earliest record of human habitation in the region that is now the state of Mississippi goes back perhaps 2,000 years. The names of Mississippi's pre-Columbian inhabitants are not known. Upon the appearance of the first Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, Mississippi Indians numbered some 30,000 and were divided into 15 tribes. Soon after the French settled in 1699, however, only three large tribes remained: the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, and the Natchez. The French destroyed the Natchez in 172930 in re-taliation for the massacre of a French settlement on the Natchez bluffs.

Spanish explorers, of whom Hernando de Soto in 154041 was the most notable, explored the area that is now Mississippi in the first half of the 16th century. De Soto found little of the mineral wealth he was looking for, and the Spanish quickly lost interest in the region. The French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, penetrated the lower Mississippi Valley from New France (Canada) in 1682. La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi and named the entire area Louisiana in honor of the French king, Louis XIV.

An expedition under French-Canadian Pierre Lemoyne, Sieur d'Iberville, established a settlement at Biloxi Bay in 1699. Soon the French opened settlements at Mobile (1702), Natchez (1716), and finally New Orleans (1718), which quickly eclipsed the others in size and importance. After losing the French and Indian War, France ceded Louisiana to its Spanish ally in 1762. The following year, Spain ceded the portion of the colony that lay east of the Mississippi to England, which governed the new lands as West Florida. During the American Revolution, the Spanish, who still held New Orleans and Louisiana, marched into Natchez, Mobile, and Pensacola (the capital) and took West Florida by conquest.

Although the United States claimed the Natchez area after 1783, Spain continued to rule it. However, the Spanish were unable to change the Anglo-American character of the settlement. Spain agreed to relinquish its claim to the Natchez District by signing the Treaty of San Lorenzo on 27 October 1795, but did not evacuate its garrison there for another three years.

The US Congress organized the Mississippi Territory in 1798. Between 1798 and 1817, the territory grew enormously in population, attracting immigrants mainly from the older states of the South but also from the Middle Atlantic states and even from New England. During this period, the territory included all the land area that is today within the borders of Mississippi and Alabama. However, sectionalism and the territory's large size convinced Congress to organize the eastern half as the Alabama Territory in 1817. Congress then offered admission to the western half, which became the nation's 20th state-Mississippi on 10 December.

Until the Civil War, Mississippi exemplified the American frontier; it was bustling, violent, and aggressive. By and large, Mississippians viewed themselves as westerners, not southerners. Nor was Mississippi, except for a few plantations around Natchez, a land of large planters. Rather, Mississippi's antebellum society and government were dominated by a coalition of prosperous farmers and small landowners. At the time of statehood, the northern two-thirds of Mississippi, though nominally under US rule since 1783, remained in the hands of the Choctaw and Chickasaw and was closed to settlement. Under intense pressure from the state government and from Andrew Jackson's presidential administration, these tribes signed three treaties between 1820 and 1832, ceding their Mississippi lands and agreeing to move to what is now Oklahoma.

The opening of fertile Indian lands for sale and settlement produced a boom of speculation and growth unparalleled in Mississippi history. Cotton agriculture and slaveryintroduced by the French and carried on by the British and Spanish, but hitherto limited mostly to the Natchez areaswept over the state. As the profitability and number of slaves increased, so did attempts by white Mississippians to justify slavery morally, socially, and economically. The expansion of slavery also produced a defensive attitude, which focused the minds of white Mississippians on two dangers: that the slaves outnumbered the whites and would threaten white society unless kept down by slavery; and that any attack on slavery, whether from the abolitionists or from Free-Soilers like Abraham Lincoln, was a threat to white society. The danger, they believed, was so great that no price was too high to pay to maintain slavery, even secession and civil war.

After Lincoln's election to the US presidency, Mississippi became, on 9 January 1861, the second southern state to secede. When the war began, Mississippi occupied a central place in Union strategy. The state sat squarely astride the major Confederate east-west routes of communication in the lower South, and the Mississippi River twisted along the state's western border. Control of the river was essential to Union division of the Confederacy. The military campaign fell into three phases: the fight for northeastern Mississippi in 1862, the struggle for Vicksburg in 186263, and the battle for east Mississippi in 186465. The Union advance on Corinth began with the Battle of Shiloh (Tenn.) in April 1862. The first Union objective was the railroad that ran across the northeastern corner of Mississippi from Corinth to Iuka and linked Memphis, Tenn., to Atlanta, Ga. Losses in the ensuing battle of Shiloh, which eventually led to the occupation of Corinth by Union troops, exceeded 10,000 men on each side.

The campaign that dominated the war in Mississippiand, indeed, along with Gettysburg provided the turning point of the Civil Warwas Vicksburg. Perched atop high bluffs overlooking a bend in the Mississippi and surrounded by hills on all sides, Vicksburg provided a seemingly impregnable fortress. Union forces maneuvered before Vicksburg for more than a year before Grant besieged the city and forced its surrender on 4 July 1863. Along with Vicksburg went the western half of Mississippi. The rest of the military campaign in the state was devoted to the fight for the east, which Union forces still had not secured when the conflict ended in 1865. Of the 78,000 Mississippians who fought in the Civil War, nearly 30,000 died.

Ten years of political, social, and economic turmoil followed. Reconstruction was a tumultuous period during which the Republican Party encouraged blacks to vote and hold political office, while the native white Democrats resisted full freedom for their former slaves. The resulting confrontation lasted until 1875, when, using violence and intimidation, the Democrats recaptured control of the state from the Republicans and began a return to the racial status quo antebellum. However, reconstruction left its legacy in minds of Mississippians: to the whites it seemed proof that blacks were incapable of exercising political power; to the blacks it proved that political and social rights could not long be maintained without economic rights.

The era from the end of Reconstruction to World War II was a period of economic, political, and social stagnation for Mississippi. In many respects, white Mississippians pushed blacks back into slavery in all but name. Segregation laws and customs placed strict social controls on blacks, and a new state constitution in 1890 removed the last vestiges of their political rights. Mississippi's agricultural economy, dominated by cotton and tenant farming, provided the economic equivalent of slavery for black sharecroppers. As a continuing agricultural depression ground down the small white farmers, many of them also were driven into the sharecropper ranks; in 1890, 63% of all Mississippi farmers were tenants. Whether former planter-aristocrats like John Sharp Williams or small-farmer advocates like James K. Vardaman (190812) and Theodore Bilbo (191620 and 192832) held office as governor, political life was dominated by the overriding desire to keep the blacks subservient. From Reconstruction to the 1960s, white political solidarity was of paramount importance. Otherwise, the whites reasoned, another Reconstruction would follow. According to the Tuskegee Institute, 538 blacks were lynched in Mississippi between 1883 and 1959, more than in any other state.

The Great Depression of the 1930s pushed Mississippians, predominantly poor and rural, to the point of desperation, and the state's agricultural economy to the brink of disaster. In 1932, cotton sank to five cents a pound, and one-fourth of the state's farmland was forfeited for nonpayment of taxes. World War II unleashed the forces that would later revolutionize Mississippi's economic, social, and political order, bringing the state its first prosperity in a century. By introducing outsiders to Mississippi and Mississippians to the world, the armed forces and the war began to erode the state's insularity. It also stimulated industrial growth and agricultural mechanization and encouraged an exodus of blacks to better-paying jobs in other states. By the early 1980s, according to any standard, Mississippi had become an industrial state. In the agricultural sector, cotton had been dethroned and crop diversification accomplished. Politics in Mississippi also changed considerably after World War II. Within little more than a generation, from 1945 to 1975, legal segregation was destroyed, and black people exercised their political rights for the first time since Reconstruction. The "Mississippi Summer" (also called Freedom Summer) civil rights campaignand the violent response to it, including the abduction and murder of three civil rights activists in June 1964helped persuade white Mississippians to accept racial equality. Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, was elected mayor of Fayette in 1969, becoming Mississippi's first black mayor since Reconstruction.

Following the 1990 redistricting that boosted the number of blacks in the Mississippi House of Representatives, the Mississippi legislature was nearly 23% black in a state in which blacks constituted 33% of the population. In 1998 African Americans accounted for 36% of the state's population.

In 1988 reformist governor Ray Mabus, elected in 1987, enacted the nation's largest teacher pay increase by that date. Nevertheless, teacher salaries in 1992 were still, on average, the second-lowest in the nation and public education remained a priority for the state in the early 2000s. Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove, elected in 2000, was able to win additional teacher pay increases from the legislature in 2001. Education was Musgrove's main focus in his 2003 State of the State Address, as he proposed a program that would place children in school two months before kindergarten and one that would attempt to keep top faculty members at Mississippi's state colleges and universities.

Mississippi's economy was hard hit by the 1986 decline in oil and gas prices. Unemployment in the state rose to 13%. By 1992 it had fallen to about 8%. The 1990s saw increasing industrial diversification and rising personal incomes, although many agricultural workers in the Mississippi Delta area remained jobless due to the increasing mechanization of farm work. By 1999 the jobless rate had dropped to 5.1%, though still above the national average of 4.2%. Nevertheless, the state remained among the nation's poorest, with nearly 18% of its population living below the poverty level as of 1998, a poverty rate that persisted into the early 2000s. Only three states had higher poverty rates. In 2003, Mississippi was facing a budget shortfall of at least $500 million.

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour, was elected governor in November 2003. Upon becoming governor, Barbour focused on job creation, job training, workplace development efforts, and tort reform. He launched "Momentum Mississippi," a long-range economic development strategy group composed of the state's business and community leaders. In 2005, he introduced comprehensive education reform legislation to reward teacher and school performance, reduce state bureaucracy, and strengthen discipline in the state's public schools. With regard to the abortion debate, Barbour introduced and passed six pro-life laws in 2004.

Southern Mississippi was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. A 30-ft (10-m) storm surge came ashore, destroying 90% of buildings along the Biloxi-Gulfport coastline. Casino barges in the area were washed ashore. About 800,000 people suffered power outages in Mississippi in the aftermath of the storm.


Mississippi has had four state constitutions. The first (1817) accompanied Mississippi's admission to the Union. A second constitution (1832) was superseded by that of 1869, redrafted under Republican rule to allow Mississippi's readmission to the Union after the Civil War. The state's present constitution, as amended, dates from 1890. By January 2005 it had 123 amendments.

Mississippi's bicameral legislature includes a 52-member Senate and a 122-member House of Representatives. Annual sessions begin in January and extend 90 calendar days, except in the first year of a gubernatorial administration, when they run 125 calendar days. All state legislators are elected to four-year terms. State representatives must be at least 21 years old and senators 25. Representatives must be qualified voters and must have been Mississippi residents for four years and residents of their district for at least two years before election. Senators must have been qualified voters and state residents for at least four years and residents of their district for at least two years before election. The legislative salary was $10,000 in 2004, unchanged from 1999.

The governor and lieutenant governor (separately elected), secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, commissioner of insurance, and the commissioner of agriculture and commerce all serve four-year terms. (Voters also elect three transportation commissioners and three public service commissioners, who also serve four-year terms.) The governor and lieutenant governor must be qualified voters, at least 30 years old, US citizens for 20 years, and Mississippi residents for 5 years before election. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $122,160. The governor is limited to a maximum of two consecutive terms.

A bill passed by both houses is sent to the governor, who has five days to veto or sign it before it becomes law. If the legislature adjourns, the governor has 15 days after the bill was presented to him to act on it before the measure becomes law. The governor's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the elected members of both houses. Constitutional amendments must first receive the approval of two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature. The electorate may also initiate amendments, provided petitions are signed by 12% of total votes for all candidates for governor at the last election. A majority of voters must approve the amendment on a statewide ballot.

Every US citizen over the age of 18 may vote in Mississippi upon producing evidence of 30 days of residence in the state and county (and city, in some cases). Restrictions apply to those convicted of certain crimes and to those judged by the court as mentally incompetent to vote.


Mississippi's major political parties are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, each an affiliate of the national party organization. Mississippi Democrats have often been at odds with each other and with the national Democratic Party. In the 1830s, party affiliation in the state began to divide along regional and economic lines: woodsmen and small farmers in eastern Mississippi became staunch Jacksonian Democrats, while the conservative planters in the western river counties tended to be Whigs. An early demonstration of the power of the Democrats was the movement of the state capital from Natchez in 1821 to a new city named after Andrew Jackson. During the pre-Civil War years, the secessionists were largely Democrats; the Unionists, western Whigs.

During Reconstruction, Mississippi had its first Republican governor. After the Democrats returned to power in 1875, they systematically deprived blacks of the right to vote, specifically by inserting into the constitution of 1890 a literacy clause that could be selectively interpreted to include illiterate whites but exclude blacks. A poll tax and convoluted residency requirements also restricted the electorate. Voter registration among blacks fell from 130,607 in 1880 to 16,234 by 1896.

Mississippi Presidential Vote by Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**unpledged electors won plurality of votes and cast Mississippi's electoral votes for Senator Harry E Byrd of Virginia.
1948 9 Thurmond (SRD) 19,384 4,995 167,538
1952 8 Stevenson (D) 172,553 112,966
1956 8 Stevenson (D) 144,453 60,683 42,961
1960 8 Byrd** 108,362 73,561 116,248
1964 7 Goldwater (R) 52,616 356,512
1968 7 Wallace (Al) 150,644 88,516 415,349
1972 7 *Nixon (R) 126,782 505,125 11,598 2,458
1976 7 *Carter (D) 281,309 366,846 6,678 2,805 2,788
1980 7 *Reagan (R) 429,281 441,089 2,402 2,240 4,702
1984 7 *Reagan (R) 352,192 582,377 2,336
1988 7 *Bush (R) 363,921 557,890 3,329
1992 7 Bush (R) 400,258 487,793 85,626 2,625 2,154
1996 7 Dole (R) 394,022 439,838 52,222 2,809
(Nader) REFORM
2000 7 *Bush, G. W. (R) 404,614 572,844 8,122 2,265 2,009
2004 6 *Bush, G. W. (R) 458,094 684,931 3,177 1,759 1,793

In 1948, Mississippi Democrats seceded from the national party over the platform, which opposed racial discrimination. That November, Mississippi voters backed the States' Rights Democratic (Dixiecrat) presidential ticket. At the national Democratic convention in 1964, the black separatist Freedom Democratic Party asked to be allotted 40% of Mississippi's seats but was turned down. A further division in the party occurred during the 1960s between the (black) Loyalist Democrats and the (white) Regular Democrats, who were finally reunited in 1976. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the segregationist White Citizens' Councils were so widespread and influential in the state as to rival the major parties in political importance.

Since the passing of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, black Mississippians have registered and voted in substantial numbers. According to estimates by the Voter Education Project, only 5% of voting-age blacks were registered in 1960; by 1992, 23% were registered.

Mississippi was one of the most closely contested states in the South during the 1976 presidential election, and that again proved to be the case in 1980, when Ronald Reagan edged Jimmy Carter by a plurality of fewer than 12,000 votes. In 1984, however, Reagan won the state by a landslide, polling 62% of the vote. In the 2000 election, Republican George W. Bush won 57% of the vote; Democrat Al Gore received 42%; and Independent Ralph Nader garnered 1%. In 2004 Bush won 59.6% to Democrat John Kerry's 39.6%. In 2002 there were 1,754,560 registered voters; there is no party registration in the state. The state had seven electoral votes in the 2000 presidential election.

Elected in 1991, Mississippi's governor Kirk Fordice was the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. But a Democrat soon regained the office: David Ronald Musgrove was elected governor in 1999. In 2003, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour, was elected governor. Following the 2004 elections, the state's two US senators were Republicans Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. Lott became majority leader of the Senate in 1996 following the departure of Bob Dole (R-Kansas); he stepped down from that post in December 2002 following controversy over remarks he made praising former South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for the presidency. Until the 1994 midterm elections all of Mississippi's US representatives were Democrats; in that election, Republican Roger Wicker won a House seat that had been in Democratic hands since Reconstruction. Following the 2004 elections, the House delegation was comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans. Following the 2004 elections, the state Senate comprised 28 Democrats and 24 Republicans; the state House had 75 Democrats and 47 Republicans.


Each of Mississippi's 82 counties is divided into 5 districts, each of which elects a member to the county board of supervisors. As of 2005, Mississippi had 296 municipal governments (incorporated as cities, towns, or villages), typically administered by a mayor and council. Some smaller municipalities were run by a commission or by a city manager, appointed by council members. There were 152 public school districts and 458 special districts in 2005.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 132,139 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Mississippi operates under the authority of executive order; the homeland security director is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission, established by the state legislature in 1979, is composed of eight members who administer a code of ethics requiring all state officials and elected local officials to file statements of sources of income.

The Mississippi Department of Education is primarily a planning and service organization whose role is to assist local schools from kindergarten through junior college and adult education. A separate Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning administers Mississippi's public college and university system. The Department of Health administers a statewide system of public health services, but other bodies, including the Department of Mental Health, also have important functions in this field. The Department of Human Services provides welfare services in the areas of assistance payments, child support, food stamp distribution, and such social services as foster home care.

Public protection is afforded by the Office of the Attorney General, Military Communities Council, Bureau of Narcotics, Department of Public Safety (including the Highway Safety Patrol), and Department of Corrections.


The Mississippi Supreme Court consists of a chief justice, two presiding justices, and eight associate justices, all elected to eight-year terms. The constitution stipulates that the Supreme Court must hold two sessions a year in the state capital; one session is to commence on the second Monday of September; the other on the first Monday of March. A new Court of Appeals was created in 1995. It consists of one chief judge, two presiding judges, and seven judges. Principal trial courts are the circuit courts, which try both civil and criminal cases; their 49 judges are elected to four-year terms. Municipal court judges are appointed. Small-claims courts are presided over by justices of the peace, who need not be lawyers.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 20,983 prisoners were held in Mississippi's state and federal prisons, an increase of 1.9% (from 20,589) from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 1,796 inmates were female, up 2.3% (from 1,755) from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Mississippi had an incarceration rate of 669 per 100,000 population in 2004, the third-highest in the United States.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mississippi in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 295.1 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 8,568 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 100,980 reported incidents or 3,478.5 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Mississippi has a death penalty, of which lethal injection is the sole method of execution. Following capital punishment's reinstatement in 1977, the state has executed seven persons (as of 5 May 2006); one execution was carried out in 2005. As of 1 January 2006, Mississippi had 65 inmates on death row.

In 2003, Mississippi spent $217,949,581 on homeland security, an average of $75 per state resident.


In 2004, there were 17,917 active-duty military personnel and 4,514 civilian personnel stationed in Mississippi. There were two major US Air Force bases, Keesler (Biloxi) and Columbus. Among the four US naval installations were an oceanographic command at Bay St. Louis, an air station at Meridian, and a construction battalion center at Gulfport. In 2004, Mississippi received about $1.86 billion in federal defense contracts, and $708 million in Defense Department payroll outlays.

There were 240,109 veterans of US military service living in Mississippi as of 2003. Of those who served in wartime, 29,837 were veterans of World War II; 25,845 of the Korean conflict; 66,717 of the Vietnam era; and 44,950 during the Persian Gulf War. Expenditures on veterans amounted to some $844 million during 2004.

As of 31 October 2004, the Mississippi Highway State Patrol employed 531 full-time sworn officers.


In the late 18th century, most Mississippians were immigrants from the South and predominantly of Scotch-Irish descent. The opening of lands ceded by the Indians beginning in the 1820s brought tens of thousands of settlers into northern and central Mississippi, and a resulting population increase between 1830 and 1840 of 175% (including an increase of 197% in the slave population).

After the Civil War, there was little migration into the state, but much out-migration, mainly of blacks. The exodus from Mississippi was especially heavy during the 1940s and 1950s, when at least 720,000 people, nearly three-quarters of them black, left the state. During the 1960s, between 267,000 and 279,000 blacks departed, while net white out-migration came to an end. Black out-migration slowed considerably during the 1970s, and more whites settled in the state than left. Also during the 1970s there was considerable intrastate migration to Hinds County (Jackson) and the Gulf Coast. Between 1980 and 1990, Mississippi had a net loss from migration of 144,128 (38% whites). Only 12 of the state's 82 counties recorded a net gain from migration during the 1980s, mostly in Rankin, DeSoto, Madison, and Hancock counties. Between 1990 and 1998, Mississippi had net gains of 43,000 in domestic migration and 6,000 in international migration. In 1998, the state admitted 701 foreign immigrants. Between 1990 and 1998, Mississippi's overall population increased 6.9%. In the period 200005, net international migration was 10,653 and net internal migration was 10,578, for a net gain of 75 people.


The Mississippi Commission on Interstate Cooperation oversees and encourages the state's participation in interstate bodies, especially the Council of State Governments and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Mississippi also participates in the Appalachian Regional Commission, Arkansas-Mississippi Great River Bridge Construction Compact, Highway 82 Four Lane Construction Compact, Mississippi-Alabama Railroad Authority Compact, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Southeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, Southern Growth Policies Board, Southern States Energy Board, Southern Regional Education Board, and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. Mississippi received $4.532 billion in federal aid in fiscal year 2005, an estimated $4.746 billion in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $4.876 billion in fiscal year 2007.


Between the Civil War and World War II, Mississippi's economy remained poor, stagnant, and highly dependent on the market for cottona bitter legacy from which the state took decades to recover. As in the pre-Civil War years, Mississippi exports mainly raw materials and imports mainly manufactures. In the 1930s, state leaders began to realize the necessity of diversifying the economy. By the mid-1960s, many more Mississippians recognized that political and economic inequality and racial conflict did not provide an environment attractive to the industries the state needed.

Once the turmoil of the 1950s and early 1960s had subsided, the impressive industrial growth of the immediate postwar years resumed. By the mid1960s, manufacturingattracted to the state, in part, because of low wage rates and a weak labor movementsurpassed farming as a source of jobs. During the following decade, the balance of industrial growth changed somewhat. The relatively low-paying garment, textile, and wood-products industries, based on cotton and timber, grew less rapidly in both value added and employment than a number of heavy industries, including transportation equipment and electric and electronic goods. The debut of casino gambling in the state in 1992 stimulated Mississippi's economy in the early and mid-1990s, and by 2002 accounted for 2.7% of total state employment (close to 31,000). In early 1995, however, the manufacturing sector began losing jobs, contributing to a deceleration in annual growth rates in the late 1990s. These losses created stress in other sectors, particularly in the retail trade and transportation and public utilities sectors. Areas of moderate growth in 2002 were business services and government. The number of personal bankruptcies in the state set a record in 2002, but the growth rate in filings moderated to 1.2%, down from 19.5% in 2001. The opening of a $1.4 billion Nissan plant near Jackson boosted the state's economy. Southern Mississippi, where the Ship System division of Northrop Grumman, Keesler Air Force Base, and the Stennis Space Center are located, should also benefit from increased national defense spending.

Mississippi's gross state product (GSP) in 2004 was $76.166 billion, of which manufacturing (durable and nondurable goods) accounted for the largest share at $12.161 billion or 15.9% of GSP, followed by the real estate sector at $7.221 billion (9.4% of GSP) and healthcare and social assistance at $5.497 billion (7.2% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 197,586 small businesses in Mississippi. Of the 54,117 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 52,403 or 96.8% were small companies. An estimated 6,141 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 2% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 7,380, up 1.6% from 2003. There were 170 business bankruptcies in 2004, down 39.7% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 765 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Mississippi as the ninth-highest in the nation.


In 2005 Mississippi had a gross state product (GSP) of $80 billion, which accounted for 0.6% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 36 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Mississippi had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $24,518. This ranked 51st in the United States and was 74% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.2%. Mississippi had a total personal income (TPI) of $71,122,091,000, which ranked 33rd in the United States and reflected an increase of 6.1% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 5.0%. Earnings of persons employed in Mississippi increased from $47,031,531,000 in 2003 to $49,796,304,000 in 2004, an increase of 5.9%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reported that the three-year average median household income for 200204 in 2004 dollars was $33,659, compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 17.7% of the population was below the poverty line, as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Mississippi numbered 1,314,300, with approximately 101,000 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 7.7%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 1,133,400. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Mississippi was 13.7% in May 1983. The historical low was 4.9% in January 2001. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that 4.8% of the labor force was employed in construction; 15.5% in manufacturing; 19.8% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 7.9% in professional and business services; 10.8% in education and health services; 10.2% in leisure and hospitality services; and 21.4% in government.

The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2005, a total of 77,000 of Mississippi's 1,089,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 7.1% of those so employed, up from 4.9% in 2004, but still below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 105,000 workers (9.7%) in Mississippi were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Mississippi is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Mississippi did not have a state-mandated minimum wage law. However, employees in that state were covered under federal minimum wage statutes. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 47.3% of the employed civilian labor force.


In 2005, Mississippi ranked 26th among the states in income from agriculture, with marketings of over $3.85 billion; crops accounted for $1.24 billion and livestock and livestock products for $2.61 billion.

The history of agriculture in the state is dominated by cotton, which from the 1830s through World War II was Mississippi's principal cash crop. During the postwar period, however, as mechanized farming replaced the sharecropper system, agriculture became more diversified. During 200004, Mississippi ranked third in cotton and fourth in rice production, among the 50 states. About 2,370,000 bales of cotton worth $591 million were harvested in 2004 (second after Texas). Soybean output in 2004 totaled 62,320,000 bushels, worth $367.7 million, and rice production was 16,146,000 hundredweight in 2004, with a value of $117.9 million.

Federal estimates for 2004 showed some 42,200 farms with a total area of 11 million acres (4.5 million hectares. The richest soil is in the Delta, where most of the cotton is raised. Livestock has largely taken over the Black Belt, a fertile area in the northwest.


Cattle are raised throughout the state, though principally in the Black Belt and Delta. The main chicken-raising area is in the eastern hills.

In 2005, there were around 1.07 million cattle and calves, valued at $834.6 million. In 2004, there were around 315,000 hogs and pigs, valued at $34.6 million. Mississippi is a leading producer of broilers, ranking fifth in 2003; some 4.3 billion lb (2 billion kg) of broilers, worth $1.51 billion, were produced in that year.


In 2004, Mississippi ranked ninth among the 50 states in size of commercial fish landings, with a total of 183.7 million lb (83.5 million kg) valued at $43.8 million. Of this total, 162.8 million lb (74 million kg) was landed at Pascagoula-Moss Point, the nation's eighth-largest port for commercial landings. Shrimp and blue crab made up the bulk of the commercial landings. The saltwater catch also includes mullet and red snapper; the freshwater catch is dominated by buffalo fish, carp, and catfish. In 2003, the state had 35 processing and 31 wholesale plants employing about 2,706 people. In 2002, the commercial fishing fleet had 1,365 boats and vessels.

Mississippi is one of the leading states in catfish farming, mostly from ponds in the Yazoo River basin. There are 410 catfish farms in operation, covering about 101,000 acres (48,900 hectares) of water surface, with a combined 2006 inventory of 641 million fingerlings and 346 million stocker-sized catfish. Sales of catfish in 2004 totaled $275 million. In 2004, the state issued 369,252 sport fishing licenses. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks operates 21 fishing lakes. The National Fish Hatchery System stocks more than 1.5 million fish annually to support fish resources in the coastal rivers of the Gulf of Mexico.


Mississippi had approximately 18,605,000 acres (7,529,000 hectares) of forested land in 2004, over 60% of the total land area of the state. Six national forests extend over 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares). The state's most heavily forested region is the Piney Woods in the southeast. Of the state's total commercial timberland, 90% is privately owned. Some of this land was also used for agricultural purposes (grazing). Lumber production in 2004 totaled 2.74 billion board feet (sixth in the United States).


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Mississippi in 2003 was $174 million, a decrease from 2002 of about 2%.

According to the preliminary data, Mississippi's top nonfuel mineral by value in 2003 was construction sand and gravel, which accounted for around 40% of all nonfuel mineral output by value. It was followed by fuller's earth, crushed stone, portland cement, and industrial sand and gravel. More than 65% by value of all nonfuel mineral production by Mississippi in 2003 was accounted for by construction sand and gravel, crushed stone, and portland cement.

Construction sand and gravel production in 2003 totaled 12.8 million metric tons and was valued at $69.1 million, while fuller's earth output that year totaled 411,000 metric tons and was valued at $29.9 million, according to the preliminary data from the USGS. The data also showed that crushed stone output in 2003 totaled 2.5 million metric tons and was worth $26.8 million.

The data listed Mississippi as ranking second among the states in production of fuller's earth, third in bentonite, and fourth in ball clay, by volume.


As of 2003, Mississippi had 51 electrical power service providers, of which 23 were publicly owned and 25 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, two were investor owned, and one was federally operated. As of that same year there were 1,420,571 retail customers. Of that total, 605,653 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 683,124 customers, while publicly owned providers had 131,787 customers. There were seven federal customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 17.282 million kW, with total production that same year at 40.148 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 78.1% came from electric utilities, with the re-mainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 17.082 billion kWh (42.5%), came from coal-fired plants, with nuclear power plants in second place at 10.902 billion kWh (27.2%) and natural gas fired plants in third place at 9.477 billion kWh (23.6%). Other renewable power sources accounted for 2.5% of all power generated, with petroleum fired plants at 4.1% and plants using other types of gases at 0.1%.

The Grand Gulf Nuclear Station boiling-water reactor, built by Mississippi Power Company in Claiborne County, continues to provide power to consumers within Mississippi. As of 2006, it was the state's sole nuclear power plant.

Mississippi is a major petroleum producer. As of 2004, the state had proven crude oil reserves of 178 million barrels, or 1% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 47,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked 14th (13th excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and 13th (12th excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004 Mississippi1 had 1,412 producing oil wells. As of 2005, the state's four refineries had a combined crude oil distillation capacity of 364,800 barrels per day.

In 2004, Mississippi had 437 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 145.692 billion cu ft (4.13 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas totaled 995 billion cu ft (28.2 billion cu m). Most production comes from the south-central part of the state.

Mississippi in 2004 had one producing coal mine, a surface operation. Coal production that year totaled 3,586,000 short tons, down from 3,695,000 short tons in 2003. One short ton equals 2,000 lb (0.907 metric tons).


According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Mississippi's manufacturing sector covered some 19 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $43.862 billion. Of that total, transportation equipment manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $7.694 billion. It was followed by food manufacturing at $5.798 billion; chemical manufacturing at $4.832 billion; furniture and related product manufacturing at $3.678 billion; and petroleum and coal products manufacturing at $3.412 billion.

In 2004, a total of 169,947 people in Mississippi were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 134,189 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the food manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 28,815, with 25,274 actual production workers. It was followed by furniture and related product manufacturing at 26,292 employees (20,094 actual production workers); transportation equipment manufacturing at 25,689 employees (19,568 actual production workers); wood product manufacturing at 11,894 employees (9,934 actual production workers); and fabricated metal product manufacturing with 11,532 employees (9,118 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Mississippi's manufacturing sector paid $5.545 billion in wages. Of that amount, the transportation equipment manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $1.003 billion. It was followed by furniture and related product manufacturing at $709.476 million; food manufacturing at $655.124 million; fabricated metal product manufacturing at $390.577 million; and wood product manufacturing at $368.544 million.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Mississippi's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $19.2 billion from 2,948 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 1,758 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 1,040 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 150 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $5.9 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $11.6 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $1.5 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Mississippi was listed as having 12,561 retail establishments with sales of $25.01 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: gasoline stations (2,009); motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (1,664); food and beverage stores (1,513); clothing and clothing accessories stores (1,476); and miscellaneous store retailers (1,220). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $6.4 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $5.1 billion; gasoline stations at $3.2 billion; and food and beverage stores at $2.8 billion. A total of 135,838 people were employed by the retail sector in Mississippi that year.

Exports from Mississippi totaled $4 billion in 2005.


The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General, and the Bureau of Regulatory Services under the Department of Agriculture and Commerce, are each responsible for a range of consumer protection activities within the state of Mississippi. The Consumer Protection Division, established in 1974, may investigate complaints of unfair or deceptive trade practices and, in specific cases, may issue injunctions to halt them. Under 1994 amendments, a violation of the Consumer Protection Act is now a criminal misdemeanor. The Bureau of Regulatory Services consumer protection activities are centered on its Petroleum Products Inspection Division and its Weights and Measures Division, which respectively check petroleum product quality and pump calibration at the retail level, and scales and measurement equipment used in commerce and trade.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil and criminal proceedings, but cannot represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies. The office administers consumer protection and education programs, handle consumer complaints and has broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; initiate criminal proceedings; and represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law.

Offices of the Consumer Protection Division and the Bureau of Regulatory Services are each located in the state capitol of Jackson.


As of June 2005, Mississippi had 100 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 30 state-chartered and 81 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Memphis market area (which included portions of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 52 institutions and $26.946 billion in deposits, followed by Jackson with 24 institu-tions and $7.492 billion in deposits for that same year. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 5.8% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $2.720 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 94.2% or $43.960 billion in assets held.

MississippiState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols: - zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 15,351,077 5,291.65
  General revenue 12,196,208 4,204.14
    Intergovernmental revenue 5,424,813 1,869.98
    Taxes 5,124,730 1,766.54
      General sales 2,482,908 855.88
      Selective sales 908,294 313.10
      License taxes 318,488 109.79
      Individual income tax 1,061,704 365.98
      Corporate income tax 243,846 84.06
      Other taxes 109,490 37.74
    Current charges 1,211,257 417.53
    Miscellaneous general revenue 435,408 150.09
  Utility revenue - -
  Liquor store revenue 193,518 66.71
  Insurance trust revenue 2,961,351 1,020.80
Total expenditure 14,330,205 4,939.75
  Intergovernmental expenditure 3,880,446 1,337.62
  Direct expenditure 10,449,759 3,602.12
    Current operation 7,786,087 2,683.93
    Capital outlay 966,268 333.08
    Insurance benefits and repayments 1,339,387 461.70
    Assistance and subsidies 157,645 54.34
    Interest on debt 200,372 69.07
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 1,868,768 644.18
Total expenditure 14,330,205 4,939.75
  General expenditure 12,833,368 4,423.77
    Intergovernmental expenditure 3,880,446 1,337.62
    Direct expenditure 8,952,922 3,086.15
  General expenditures, by function:
    Education 4,310,712 1,485.94
    Public welfare 4,048,627 1,395.60
    Hospitals 695,350 239.69
    Health 297,655 102.60
    Highways 1,012,320 348.96
    Police protection 75,257 25.94
    Correction 306,477 105.65
    Natural resources 235,490 81.18
    Parks and recreation 45,853 15.81
    Government administration 283,352 97.67
    Interest on general debt 200,372 69.07
    Other and unallocable 1,321,903 455.67
  Utility expenditure - -
  Liquor store expenditure 157,450 54.27
  Insurance trust expenditure 1,339,387 461.70
Debt at end of fiscal year 4,274,977 1,473.62
Cash and security holdings 23,288,104 8,027.61

In 2004, median past-due/nonaccrual loan levels stood at 2.38% of total loans, down from 2.79% in 2003. The median net interest margin (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans) in that same year stood at 4.18%, unchanged from the previous year.

The Banking Division of the Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance is responsible for regulating state-chartered financial institutions.


In 2004 there were over 2.1 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of over $99.8 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was about $149 billion. The average coverage amount was $45,800 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $526 million.

At the end of 2003, 26 life and health and 18 property and casualty insurance companies were domiciled in Mississippi. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $3.6 billion. That year, there were 42,320 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $5.2 million. About $1.6 billion of coverage was in force through beach and windstorm insurance.

In 2004, 47% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 4% held individual policies, and 30% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 18% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged 15% for single coverage and 29% for family coverage. The state offers a 12-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were over 1.6 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $25,000. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $709.45.


There are no securities exchanges in Mississippi. In 2005, there were 420 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 610 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 27 publicly traded companies within the state, with over eight NASDAQ companies, eight NYSE listings, and three AMEX listings.


Two state budgets are prepared annuallyone by the State Department of Finance and Administration, for the executive branch; and one by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, for the legis-lative branchand submitted to the legislature for reconciliation and approval. The fiscal year runs from 1 July through 30 June.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $4.3 billion for resources and $4.0 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Mississippi were $5.3 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Mississippi was slated to receive: $5 million to replace the air traffic control tower at Gulf-port-Biloxi International Airport.


In 2005, Mississippi collected $5,432 million in tax revenues or $1,860 per capita, which placed it 39th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.8% of the total, sales taxes, 47.6%; selective sales taxes, 17.2%; individual income taxes, 21.6%; corporate income taxes, 5.2%; and other taxes, 7.5%.

As of 1 January 2006, Mississippi had three individual income tax brackets ranging from 3.0% to 5.0%. The state taxes corporations at rates ranging from 3.0% to 5.0% depending on tax bracket.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $1,859,756,000, or $641 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 40th nationally. Local governments collected $1,819,515,000 of the total and the state government $40,241,000.

Mississippi taxes retail sales at a rate of 7%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 0.25%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 7.25%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is taxable. The tax on cigarettes is 18 cents per pack, which ranks 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mississippi taxes gasoline at 18.4 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Mississippi citizens received $1.77 in federal spending, which ranks the state fourth nationally.


In 1936, the state began implementing a program called Balance Agriculture with Industry (BAWI), designed to attract manufacturing to Mississippi. The BAWI laws offered industry substantial tax concessions and permitted local governments to issue bonds to build plants that would be leased to companies for a 20-year period, after which the company would own them. Mississippi continues to offer low tax rates and numerous tax incentives to industry.

The Mississippi Development Authority is charged with encouraging economic growth in the specific fields of industrial development, marketing of state products, and development of tourism. A high-technology asset is the John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Hancock County, which is NASA's largest rocket engine test facility.

In September 2005, President George W. Bush announced he would create a Gulf Opportunity Zone for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Congress passed the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act in December 2005, which provides a number of tax incentives to encourage the rebuilding of areas ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 9.6 per 1,000 live births, representing the second-highest rate in the country that year (following the District of Columbia). The birth rate in 2003 was 14.7 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 5.9 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 84.9% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 84% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.9 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 315.5; cancer, 211.3; cerebrovascular diseases, 67.1; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 48; and diabetes, 23.4. Mississippi ranked third in the nation for the highest death rates by heart disease, following West Virginia and Oklahoma. The state also had the third-highest homicide rate at 10.6 per 100,000 (following the District of Columbia and Louisiana). The accidental death rate of 57.2 per 100,000 is also one of the highest in the country. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 6.4 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 16.5 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 60.8% of the population was considered overweight or obese; this represented the third-highest rate in the country, following West Virginia and Alabama. As of 2004, about 24.4% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Mississippi had 92 community hospitals with about 13,000 beds. There were about 416,000 patient admissions that year and 4 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 7,400 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $882. Also in 2003, there were about 204 certified nursing facilities in the state with 18,149 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 88.5%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 59.4% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year; this was the lowest percentage for dental care in the nation. Mississippi had 182 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 889 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there was a total of 1,159 dentists in the state.

About 30% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 18% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $4.2 million.


In 2004, about 60,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $172. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 391,485 persons (158,539 households); the average monthly benefit was about $98.55 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $462.9 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. In 2004, the state TANF program had 42,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $67 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 545,710 Mississippians. This number included 289,380 retired workers, 56,860 widows and widowers, 103,870 disabled workers, 25,310 spouses, and 70,290 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 18.7% of the total state population and 92.5% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $875; widows and widowers, $765; disabled workers, $835; and spouses, $422. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $423 per month; children of deceased workers, $552; and children of disabled workers, $244. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 125,180 Mississippi residents, averaging $369 a month.


In 2004, Mississippi had an estimated 1,221,240 housing units, of which 1,074,503 were occupied; 69.6% were owner-occupied. About 69.4% of all units were single-family, detached homes; 13.7% were mobile homes. Utility gas and electricity were the most common energy sources to all units. It was estimated that 92,908 units lacked telephone service, 8,325 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 9,387 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.61 members.

In 2004, 14,500 privately owned units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $79,023, the second-lowest in the country (above Arkansas). The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $843. Renters paid a median of $529 per month. In September 2005, the state received grants of $949,098 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for rural housing and economic development programs. For 2006, HUD allocated to the state over $30.3 million in community development block grants. Also in 2006, HUD offered an additional $5 billion to the state in emergency funds to rebuild housing that was destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in late 2005.


In 2004, 83% of Mississippians age 25 and older had completed high school, almost reaching the national average of 84%. Some 20.1% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, below the national average of 26%.

Mississippi's reaction to the US Supreme Court decision in 1954 mandating public school desegregation was to repeal the constitutional requirement for public schools and to foster the development of segregated private schools. In 1964, the state's schools did begin to integrate, and compulsory school attendance was restored 13 years later. As of 1980, 26% of minority (nonwhite) students were in schools in which minorities represented less than 50% of the student body, and 19% were in 99-100% minority schoolsa considerable degree of de facto segregation, but less so than in some northern states. In 1982, the compulsory school age was raised to 14, and as of 2001, it was 17; also in 1982, a system of free public kindergartens was established for the first time.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Mississippi's public schools stood at 493,000. Of these, 360,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 132,000 attended high school. Approximately 47.3% of the students were white, 50.7% were black, 1.1% were Hispanic, 0.7% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.2% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 489,000 in fall 2003 and was expected to be 469,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 4.8% during the period 200214. There were 49,729 students enrolled in 240 private schools in fall 2003. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $3.4 billion or $6,237 per student, the fifth-lowest among the 50 states. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in Mississippi scored 262 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 147,077 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 39.1% of total postsecondary enrollment. In 2005 Mississippi had 40 degree-granting institutions including 9 public 4-year institutions, 17 public 2-year institutions, and 11 nonprofit private 4-year schools. Important institutions of higher learning in Mississippi include the University of Mississippi, established in 1844, Mississippi State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Predominantly black institutions include Tougaloo College, Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, and Mississippi Valley State University.


The Mississippi Arts Commission was founded in 1968 and supports and promotes the arts in community life as well as education. In 2005, the Mississippi Arts Commission and other Mississippi arts organizations received seven grants totaling $701,500 from the National Endowment for the Arts. The commission also receives significant sums from the state and private sources. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $891,547 to eight state programs.

Jackson has two ballet companies, a symphony orchestra, and two opera companies. Opera South, an integrated but predominantly black company, presents free operas during its summer tours and mounts two major productions yearly. The Mississippi Opera was incorporated in 1947 and is noted as the 11th-oldest continuously producing professional opera company in the nation. There are local symphony orchestras in Meridian, Starkville, Tupelo, and Greenville.

The established professional theaters in the state are the Sheffield Ensemble in Biloxi and the New Stage in Jackson. The Greater Gulf Coast Arts Center has been very active in bringing arts programs into the coastal area.

A distinctive contribution to US culture is the music of black sharecroppers from the Delta, known as the blues. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale has an extensive collection documenting blues history. The annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival is held in Greenville. In September 2005 the 28th annual festival was held showcasing performances by artists such as Shirley Brown and Bobby Rush. Past performers include B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.


As of September 2001, Mississippi had 49 public library systems, with a total of 237 libraries, of which 189 were branches. In that same year, there were 5,615,000 volumes of books and serial publications in Mississippi libraries, and a total circulation of 8,898,000. The system also had 138,000 audio and 168,000 video items, 7,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and two bookmobiles. The finest collection of Mississippiana is at the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History in Jackson. In the Vicksburg-Warren County Public Library are collections on the Civil War and state history and oral history collections. Tougaloo College has special collections of African materials, civil rights papers, and oral history. The Gulf Coast Research Library of Ocean Springs has a marine biology collection. In fiscal year 2001, operating income for the state's public library system totaled $37,393,000, including $746,000 in federal grants and $7,084,000 in state grants.

There are 65 museums, including the distinguished Mississippi State Historical Museum at Jackson. Pascagoula, Laurel, and Jackson all have notable art museums. The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson has been designated the state's official natural science museum by the legislature. Also in Jackson is the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. In Meridian is a museum devoted to country singer Jimmie Rodgers, and in Jackson one to pitcher Dizzy Dean.

Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's home at Biloxi, is a state shrine and includes a museum. The Mississippi governor's mansioncompleted in 1845, restored in 1975, and purportedly the second-oldest executive residence in the United Statesis a National Historical Landmark.


In 2004, only 89.6% of Mississippi's occupied housing units had telephones, the second-lowest rate in the United States. In addition, by June of that same year there were 1,411,277 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 48.3% of Mississippi households had a computer and 38.9% had Internet access, the lowest in the United States in both categories. By June 2005, there were 191,768 high-speed lines in Mississippi, 165,095 residential and 26,673 for business.

In 2005, the state had 64 major operating radio stations (7 AM, 57 FM) and 14 major television stations. A total of 17,234 Internet domain names had been registered in Mississippi as of 2000.


In 2005, Mississippi had 23 daily newspapers: 8 morning dailies and 15 evening dailies. There were 18 Sunday papers in the state. The state's leading newspaper, located in Jackson and owned by the Gannett Company, is The Clarion-Ledger, a morning daily with a weekday circulation of 94,938 (107,865 Sunday).

Other leading dailies with approximate 2005 circulation rates are:

Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald (m,S) 46,598 55,582
Tupelo NE Mississippi Daily Journal 35,490 35,841

A monthly, Mississippi Magazine, is published in Jackson.


In 2006, there were over 1,789 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 1,057 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, later the Student National Coordinating Committee) were among the organizations that played key roles in the civil rights struggles in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.

Other organizations with headquarters in Mississippi are the American Association of Public Health Physicians (Greenwood), the Sons of Confederate Veterans (Hattiesburg), the Sacred Heart League (Wallis), the National Band Association (Hattiesburg), and the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America (Hernando). The International Dodge Ball Federation has a base in Gulfport.


In 2004, there were 30 million overnight travelers in Mississippi, with 83% of all visitors traveling from out of state. In 2002 tourists spent an estimated $6.4 billion, which supported over 126,500 travel-related jobs. Jobs in the gaming industry represented about one-third of the total.

Among Mississippi's major tourist attractions are its floating riverboat casinos and its mansions and plantations, many of them in the Natchez area. Tunica, 30 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, has Las Vegas-style casinos with hotels and entertainment, generating a significant source of revenue for the state. McRaven Plantation in Vicksburg was built in 1797. The Delta and Pine Land Co. plantation near Scott is one of the largest cotton plantations in the United States. At Greenwood is the Florewood River Plantation, a museum recreating 19th-century plantation life. The Mississippi State Fair is held annually in Jackson during the second week in October. Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic route, running 444 mi (740 km) from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Among the tourist attractions along this route is the Emerald Mound, the second-largest Indian ceremonial earthwork. The city of Oxford was the home of William Faulkner and visitors can tour his former home, Rowan Oak. Although Memphis, Tennessee, is the site of Elvis Presley's home (Graceland), Tupelo is the site of his birthplace. As of 2006, many attractions had not yet recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

National parks include the Natchez Trace Parkway, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Vicksburg National Military Park. There are also 6 national forests and 24 state parks.


There are no major professional sports teams in Mississippi. There are minor league hockey teams in Biloxi and Jackson. The University of Mississippi has long been prominent in college football. "Ole Miss" teams won the Sugar Bowl in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1970, and the Cotton Bowl in 1956. The Rebels play in the Southeastern Conference, as do the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Southern Mississippi is a member of Conference USA.

Other annual sporting events of interest include the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo, held in Jackson in February, and the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, held in Madison in October and November.

Football greats Walter Payton and Jerry Rice, along with boxing legend Archie Moore, were born and raised in Mississippi.


Mississippi's most famous political figure, Jefferson Davis (b.Kentucky, 180889), came to the state as a very young child, was educated at West Point, and served in the US Army from 1828 to 1835. He resigned a seat in Congress in 1846 to enter the Mexican War from which he returned home a hero after leading his famous regiment, the 1st Mississippi Rifles, at the Battle of Buena Vista, Mexico. From 1853 to 1857, he served as secretary of war in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce. Davis was representing Mississippi in the US Senate in 1861 when the state withdrew from the Union. In February 1861, he was chosen president of the Confederacy, an office he held until the defeat of the South in 1865. Imprisoned for two years after the Civil War (though never tried), Davis lived the last years of his life at Beauvoir, an estate on the Mississippi Gulf Coast given to him by an admirer. There he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, completed eight years before his death in New Orleans.

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (b.Georgia, 182593) settled in Oxford in 1855 and only two years later was elected to the US House of Representatives. A supporter of secession, he served as Confederate minister to Russia in 1862. After the war, Lamar was the first Mississippi Democrat returned to the House; in 1877, he entered the US Senate. President Grover Cleveland made Lamar his secretary of the interior in 1885, later appointing him to the US Supreme Court. Lamar served as associate justice from 1888 until his death.

Some of the foremost authors of 20th-century America had their origins in Mississippi. Supreme among them is William Faulkner (18971962), whose literary career began in 1924 with the publication of The Marble Faun, a book of poems. His novels included such classics as The Sound and the Fury (1929), Light in August (1932), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Faulkner received two Pulitzer Prizes (one posthumously), and in 1949 was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Richard Wright (190860), born near Natchez, spent his childhood years in Jackson. He moved to Memphis as a young man, and from there migrated to Chicago; he lived his last years in Paris. A powerful writer and a leading spokesman for the black Americans of his generation, Wright is best remembered for his novel Native Son (1940) and for Black Boy (1945), an autobiographical account of his Mississippi childhood.

Other native Mississippians of literary renown (and Pulitzer Prize winners) are Eudora Welty (19092001), Tennessee Williams (Thomas Lanier Williams, 191183), and playwright Beth Henley (b.1952). Welty's work, like Faulkner's, is set in Mississippi; her best-known novels include Delta Wedding (1946), The Ponder Heart (1954), and Losing Battles (1970). Although Tennessee Williams spent most of his life outside Mississippi, some of his most famous plays are set in the state. Other Mississippi authors are Hodding Carter (b.Louisiana, 190772), Shelby Foote (19162005), Walker Percy (b.Alabama, 19161990), and Willie Morris (193499).

Among the state's numerous musicians are William Grant Still (18951978), a composer and conductor, and Leontyne Price (Mary Leontine Price, b.1927), a distinguished opera singer. Famous blues singers are Charlie Patton (18871934), William Lee Conley "Big Bill" Broonzy (18981958), Howlin' Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett, 19101976), Muddy Waters (McKinley Morgan-field, 191583), John Lee Hooker (19172001), and Riley "B. B." King (b.1925). Mississippi's contributions to country music include Jimmie Rodgers (18971933), Conway Twitty (19331994), and Charley Pride (b.1939). Elvis Presley (193577), born in Tupelo, was one of the most popular entertainers in US history.


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MISSISSIPPI. Located in the heart of the South, Mississippi is one of five southern states that border the Gulf of Mexico. Its total area consists of 47,689 square miles, ranking it the second smallest Gulf-South state and the thirty-first in population nationally. Despite its size, the region has been blessed with perhaps the South's most fertile soil, though there are marked contrasts in several infertile belts. Its brown loam soil region in the central interior, its loess soil in the southwestern corridor, and its rich east-central prairie have continued to be productive cotton and grazing lands and, in the early and mid-nineteenth century, were dominant economic centers before major development of the even more fertile Yazoo-Mississippi Delta in the decades surrounding the Civil War.

Long before the arrival of Europeans and Africans, numerous native groups made Mississippi their home. Three tribes dominated, however: the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and the Natchez. While their worlds were hardly tranquil or their civilizations as technologically developed as that of the Europeans, they lived in harmony with nature and, even as the Europeans intruded, continued to develop their culture. In both positive and negative ways, life would never be the same for them thereafter. For example, after the early 1730s, the Natchez, with one of the most complex and highly developed civilizations north of Mexico, no longer existed in Mississippi following a long period of confrontations with the colonial French.

European interest in Mississippi began soon after New World discovery. The Spaniard Hernando de Soto, seeking to reclaim the glory and increase the wealth that he had achieved with Francisco Pizarro in Peru, was the first European explorer of Mississippi. He failed in his efforts, eventually dying in his quest. But the conquistador left an enduring legacy of his journey through Mississippi's wilderness when, in 1541, he happened upon the Mississippi River to become the first known white man to approach its banks overland. Other aspects of his expedition through the Southeast are far less admirable because of the inhumane tolls that he inflicted on Native peoples along the way, including the Chickasaws with whom he quartered during the winter of 1540–1541.

It was, however, the French who first laid substantive claims to Mississippi. René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, an ambitious French explorer and fur trader interested in both personal gain and French expansion in North America, claimed the Mississippi countryside in 1682 for King Louis XIV as an integral part of the Louisiana colony. Thirteen years later, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, led a group of settlers to the Gulf Coast, where he constructed Fort Maurepas (later named Ocean Springs), the first permanent white settlement on Mississippi soil.

France's settlements in Mississippi soon expanded to included Natchez on the Mississippi and Biloxi near Ocean Springs. Its colonial experience in the Lower Mississippi Valley, however, proved an immense failure. A misguided imperial policy, punctuated by a weak economy, an inadequate immigration flow, and poor Indian relations influenced its regional instability. A rivalry with England for colonial domination culminated with the French and Indian War (1754–1763) and eventually led to France's expulsion from North America. For nearly two decades thereafter, England controlled Mississippi as part of its West Florida province and sought to develop a tobacco culture in the Natchez region, but it, too, met only limited success. Although the Mississippi region did not revolt against England in the American Revolution, England lost West Florida to Spain soon after Spain entered the conflict. It was a propitious situation for Spain, which added the east bank of the Mississippi to its west bank holdings, an area acquired prior to the French and Indian War.

An American dispute with Spain over West Florida's northern boundary remained a diplomatic issue until the 1795 signing of Pinckney's Treaty. The agreement ceded to the United States the coveted Yazoo Strip and resulted in the establishment of the Mississippi Territory, ceremoniously declared in Natchez on 7 April 1798. Congress fixed the northern and southern boundaries at thirty-two degrees and twenty-eight minutes north latitude and thirty-one degrees north latitude, respectively. The Mississippi and Chattahoochee Rivers bounded the territory in the west and in the east. Excluding the Gulf Coast region, which remained in Spanish West Florida, southern Mississippi and Alabama lay essentially with in the territory. However, by 1804, the territory's northern limits had reached the Tennessee line; eight years later, expansion to the south incorporated the Gulf Coast, the result of presidential decree shortly after borderland inhabitants successfully revolted against Spanish authority. Natchez, with its advantageous location, great economic potential, and larger population was the clear choice over Alabama settlements to seat the territorial government.

Mississippi's government was established under guidelines similar to legislation that organized the Old Northwest Territories in 1787. A federally appointed governor, with the assistance of a secretary and three judges, comprised the initial structure until the territory met higher population standards. With slavery long established in the area, however, provisions in the Northwest Ordinance that banned the institution there could not apply to Mississippi. Winthrop Sargent served as the first governor, a contentious tenure that lasted until President Thomas Jefferson replaced him in 1801. Sargent was a Federalist appointee and, like three of his four Democratic-Republican Party successors, governed during a period when politics in Mississippi was extremely partisan. Eastern Mississippi's yeoman farmers found much to differ over with the Mississippi River area's aristocratic planters and creditor classes, who dominated governmental and economic affairs. Political turmoil was so disruptive that it influenced Governor W. C. C. Claiborne, Sargent's successor, to seek a solution by moving the territorial capital to Washington, a small village several miles north of Natchez. Only under the administration of the more tractable Virginian David Holmes, the last territorial governor, did Mississippi find relief from the political infighting, prompting a unity certainly influenced by exigencies from the War of 1812 and the volatile Creek War of 1813.

The peace that followed sparked a period of massive population growth, particularly in the eastern areas. Rapidly upon the heels of this great migration of 1816, Mississippi successfully lobbied Congress for statehood. On 10 December 1817, President James Monroe signed legislation that admitted Mississippi to the Union as the twentieth state. By then, the Alabama settlements had gone their separate way and soon followed Mississippi into statehood.

It was clear from the outset that Mississippi's constitutional framers were uninterested in establishing a broad-based democracy. Persistent sectional problems had disrupted the constitutional convention, and eastern territorial delegates could not prevent westerners from maintaining their political dominance over the state. Only men of considerable real property were eligible to hold office and vote, though militia service could qualify one for the franchise. Occasionally, the backcountry commoners' pleas for a greater voice were heard, as they were in 1822, when efforts to end a long-standing grievance moved the capital to the centrally located and politically neutral site that became Jackson. Universal white manhood suffrage and other democratic changes resulted from a new constitution in 1832, inspired by the widening national influence of Jacksonian democracy; yet constitutional reform hardly negated the power of the wealthy ruling class of planters and businessmen.

The 1830s—Mississippi's "flush times"—were also years of unparalled prosperity. Much of this stimulation came at the expense of Native Americans, who, after experiencing years of territorial shrinkage, lost title to all of their remaining lands. Removal of the Mississippi Choctaws and Chickasaws to Indian Territory opened vast new fertile lands to white exploitation. Banks proliferated through easy credit policies and paper currency and helped to fuel the boom. Speculators prospered through high land prices. Land-hungry farmers and planters poured into Mississippi and rapidly filled the empty spaces, primarily the state's northern half. The 1840 census revealed a ten-year white population increase of 175 percent and of black, 197 percent, almost entirely slaves. But a change in federal monetary and credit policies ended this golden age, prompting the panic of 1837. Unable to meet their obligations, many Mississippians lost their possessions and suffered through the depression; numerous others sought to escape by migrating to Texas.

Some Mississippians certainly benefited from the cyclical upswing that began in the mid-1840s. The spread of the cotton culture into Indian cession lands increased the size and power of the planter elite. Corn, not cotton, was the largest crop in acreage, but it neither generated the income nor enhanced the image and prestige of its producers as "white gold" did for planters. The disparity between the affluent and poor naturally increased. None were, of course, more impoverished than the thousands of slaves, who by 1840 comprised a 52 percent population majority. They toiled in virtually every capacity, but cotton and fieldwork were their major calling and, by 1860, their labor had helped to make Mississippi one of the five richest states in the nation.

More than any other, it was the slave issue that proved to be the most decisive in Mississippi's justification for secession. To be sure, disunion was hardly endorsed enthusiastically everywhere, but even for Mississippians in areas with fewer slaves, such as the Piney Woods and the Northeastern Hills, Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 and the Republican Party's opposition to slavery's expansion seemed threatening to a familiar way of life. Consequently, the state left the union by a large majority on 9 January 1861.

The enthusiasm and optimism that Mississippians expressed at the onset of Southern nationhood soon gave way to the realities of war. Food, materials, and labor shortages affected both the military and civilian populations. Numerous battles occurred in Mississippi, but none compared to Vicksburg and the significance it held for the Confederacy as a railway supply center for the Deep South, and for the Union's goal to control the strategically important Mississippi River. For the Confederacy and Mississippi, Vicksburg's loss on 4 July 1863 was costly in human life and morale and certainly influenced the war's outcome. The siege at Vicksburg severely damaged the town, but Mississippi as a whole did not experience the extensive physical devastation that occurred elsewhere. Few communities, and fewer families, however, were left untouched in some way by the war. More than 78,000 white men went off to fight; 27,000 never returned, and, for many who did, disability was often a reminder of their commitment and sacrifice. A year after the war, Mississippi devoted one-fifth of its budget to purchase artificial limbs for veterans.

Black Mississippians, too, saw activity in the war; 17,000 fought to help save the Union and free their people. Months into the conflict, slavery's fate seemed sealed; by war's end, emancipation was assured. In Mississippi, 436,000 former slaves would join more than 3 million from other states in freedom. At the outset, however, it was unclear exactly what their status would be, beyond legal freedom. In the years that followed emancipation, their challenges proved formidable, as federal and state officials sought to define African American citizenship, while simultaneously wrestling with the politics and economics of Reconstruction (1865–1877) and North–South reconciliation.

Federal policy gave Mississippi freedmen no land and only a fleeting opportunity to experience citizenship. But they responded enthusiastically. They influenced a temporary return to Mississippi's two-party system by helping the newly formed Republican Party. They voted, helped to shape and implement constitutional reform, and served in offices at all government levels, including both houses of Congress. The seating of Hiram R. Revels and Blanche K. Bruce as U.S. senators, for example, represented unprecedented nineteenth-century accomplishments. Not until 1986 would another Mississippian, Mike Espy, become the second African American to follow John R. Lynch into the House of Representatives.

Reconstruction gains were short-lived for freedmen, however. This was largely because the Republican Party's ascendancy was brief. Democrats regained elective hegemony in 1875 through their "Mississippi plan," a counterrevolution campaign of widespread violence, economic intimidation of freedmen, and balloting fraud. Thereafter, through impeachment they quickly purged most remaining Republicans from state offices.

The outcome proved crucial to the former slaves and, like elsewhere, they fell victim to an insidious political and racial backlash that relegated them to less than second class citizens. To be sure, the overthrow of Republican rule—a period that hardly equaled the Reconstruction excesses in some former Confederate states—and its replacement with the redemption (1876–1900) did not immediately submerge the freedmen into near total subordination, but by the end of the century, such results were certainly evident.

Demand for their suppression came from white farmers in the hills counties. These common men were dissatisfied with conservative democrats—so-called Bourbons, or Redeemers—because of their promotion and alliance with the railroad and industrial establishment. Railroading and timber production dramatically increased but afforded economic opportunity for only a small minority. Tied ever more to "king cotton" and one-crop agriculture, with its farm tenancy, crop lien credit system, farmers had sweltered economically in an agriculturally depressed postwar period, largely dominated by the success of northern industrial expansion. From their perspective, federal economic and monetary policies exacerbated agrarian woes. The white majority, seeking greater empowerment and believing it possible only through ousting the Bourbons and the black vote they controlled, supported a Democratic party leadership that insisted on a new constitution in 1890, which would legally deprive blacks of the vote. This disfranchisement coalesced with rigid Jim Crowism and a stifling sharecropping system that pushed blacks ever deeper into impoverishment and ensured white supremacy well beyond the mid-twentieth century.

The 1902 Primary Election Law helped propel James K. Vardaman—representative of this new "redneck" faction—into the governorship in 1903. Vardaman was popularly known as the "white chief" because of his white supremacy views, and, along with his demagogue successors, he championed white commoners' elevation through a progressive agenda of social justice, limitations on business and industry, and adherence to white supremacy and classism. Medical and juvenile care, prison reform, and transportation all progressed; improvements in education occurred only minimally. Although these leaders enjoyed immense popularity, they had their detractors, and perhaps none aroused as much controversy and criticism as did Theodore Bilbo, twentieth-century Mississippi's most rabid race baiter, who was elected governor in 1915 and 1927 and three times to the U.S. Senate.

The influence of the redneck leadership waned after the onset of the Great Depression during the 1930s and with the emergence of business-oriented governors such as Martin Sennett Conner (1932–1936) and Hugh White (1936–1940, 1952–1956). Motivated as much by the need to lessen the effects of the depression on the nation's poorest state as they were to create a more diversified economy, these leaders instituted creative measures such as the sales tax and lucrative state incentives to attract industry. Light industrial expansion in furniture and clothing manufacturing could not compare to the arrival of a major shipbuilding corporation on the Gulf Coast in 1938—which was still the state's largest private employer in the early 2000s—but collectively they added promise to the prospects of Mississippi's economic future.

Much needed to be done. Federal depression-era measures certainly helped, but conditions hardly improved for most landless farmers, black or white, who were further affected adversely by mechanization and a declining need for manual labor. For many, migration to northern industrial states or nearby cities like Memphis, Mobile, and New Orleans held the greatest promise. One result was that, by 1940, blacks had become a minority, a downward spiral that continued into the 1960s. World War II sparked a similar intrastate "pull" factor for Jackson, which assumed a distinctively urban character, and for Hattiesburg and the Gulf Coast, attractive because of demands from recently established military installations.

War put 23,700 Mississippians into military uniforms. Their service exposed them to a world that was very different from Mississippi. Veterans' benefits provided them opportunities for college and better housing. The farm and rural life appealed less to them as cities and towns continued their slow but steady growth. Some veterans had certainly been influenced by one of the war's goals—to end Nazi racism—but Mississippi found it difficult to break from its past. Opposed to black Mississippians' demands for equal rights and the national Democratic Party's increasingly liberal support of civil rights, between 1948 and 1970 the state was frequently a center of attention because of its determined stand to maintain racial orthodoxy.

Governor Hugh White's unrealistic proposals to equalize black and white schools in the early 1950s inevitably failed and forecast the historic 1954 Supreme Court school desegregation decision. Mississippi was perhaps the South's most segregated state, and many certainly believed they had much to defend; others understood the importance of cracking the monolith, for success there might make gains easier to achieve elsewhere. Forces such as the White Citizens Council—the so-called Uptown Klan—first emerged in Mississippi before its regional spread to fight "race-mixers" through political and economic intimidation. But change was inevitable, though it occurred grudgingly and not without frequent bloody consequences. In 1962, rioting erupted over the black student James Meredith's admission to the University of Mississippi, and beatings of civil rights workers by both citizens and law officials occurred throughout the state. Nothing, however, equaled the international revulsion that resulted from the manhunt and grave discovery of three young activists, two of whom were white college students, brutally murdered in the 1964 Freedom Summer voting rights campaign. By the end of the 1960s, however, nearly all white colleges and universities enrolled black students; the federal courts ordered statewide public school desegregation in the early 1970s; and, a decade after its passage, the 1965 Voting Rights Act had resulted in more African Americans in Mississippi government offices than in any other state in the nation. Undeniably, disparities endured, as revealed by a 2002 state settlement of a twenty-seven year black plaintiffs college funding discrimination suit. At the end of the twentieth century, however, the race question was no longer the political, social, and economically divisive issue that had retarded Mississippi's development throughout much of its history.

Other adjustments also appeared in the last third of the twentieth century. A viable two-party system functioned for the first time since Reconstruction, as Republicans won elective offices to all levels of government, including the governorship and Congress. The state ended its dependence on cotton as soybean production rivaled it. The early vision of governors such as Hugh White, Paul Johnson Sr. (1940–1943), and Paul Johnson Jr. (1964–1968), all of whom had worked to achieved a more balanced economy, showed remarkable fruition as industry, for the first time, provided Mississippians with more jobs and wages than did agriculture. Opportunities in extracting and developing Mississippi's major natural resources of oil, timber, coal, bauxite, sand, and gravel expanded. Oil refining, furniture and paper manufacturing, and diverse service-related jobs joined with tourism and the new casino industry to invigorate Mississippi's economy. Employment from a major automobile manufacturing plant would open in 2003 and add further economic growth in central Mississippi. A massive ongoing highway building program, initiated in the 1980s, has significantly improved the infrastructure and quality of transportation. Finally, education reform in the establishment of kindergartens, smaller classrooms, and teacher aides and the institution of more equitable funding through the Adequate Education Program have improved an education system that long lagged behind other states.

Progress not with standing, in 2000 Mississippi remained one of the nation's poorest states, its citizens earning 71 percent of the national median income. For every tax dollar that Mississippi sent to the federal government in the early 2000s it received three back through various programs. With a relatively small population of 2.8 million people as of 2002, the state's modest growth in the previous decade would result in the loss of one of five congressional seats and, perhaps accordingly, the loss of substantive influence in ensuring Mississippi's continued receipt of vital federal dollars.


Bartley, Numan V. The New South, 1945–1980: The Story of the South's Modernization. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Bettersworth, John K. Confederate Mississippi: The People and Politics of a Cotton State in Wartime. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1978.

Bond, Bradley. Political Culture in the Nineteenth-Century South: Mississippi, 1830–1900. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Carpenter, Barbara, ed. Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992.

Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. New York: Perennial Classics, 2002.

Harris, William C. The Day of the Carpetbagger. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.

James, D. Clayton. Antebellum Natchez. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968.

Kirwan, Albert D. Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics, 1876– 1925. Gloucester, Mass.: P. Smith, 1964.

McLemore, Richard A., ed. A History of Mississippi. 2 vols. Hattiesburg: University Press of Mississippi. 1973.

McMillen, Neil. Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

———. The Citizen's Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954–1964. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Miles, Edwin A. Jacksonian Democracy in Mississippi. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

Moore, John Hebron. The Emergence of the Cotton Kingdom in the Old Southwest: Mississippi, 1770–1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.


See alsoReconstruction ; Tribes: Southeastern ; Vicksburg in the Civil War ; andvol. 9:An Interview with Fannie Lou Hamer ; Black Code of Mississippi, November, 1865 .

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Mississippi (state, United States)

Mississippi (mĬs´əsĬp´ē), one of the Deep South states of the United States. It is bordered by Alabama (E), the Gulf of Mexico (S), Arkansas and Louisiana, with most of that border formed by the Mississippi River (W), and Tennessee (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 47,716 sq mi (123,584 sq km). Pop. (2010) 2,967,297, a 4.3% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Jackson. Statehood, Dec. 10, 1817 (20th state). Highest pt., Woodall Mt., 806 ft (246 m); lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Magnolia State. Motto,Virtute et Armis [By Valor and Arms]. State bird, mockingbird. State flower, magnolia. State tree, magnolia. Abbr., Miss.; MS


Mississippi's generally hilly landscape reaches its highest point (806 ft/246 m) in the northeastern corner of the state along the Tennessee River. The most distinctive region in the state's varied topography is the Mississippi Delta, a flat alluvial plain between the Mississippi and the Yazoo rivers in the western part of the state. A wide belt of longleaf yellow pine (the piney woods) covers most of southern Mississippi to within a few miles of the coastal-plain grasslands. Important there are lumbering and allied industries. Most of the state's rivers belong to either the Mississippi or the Alabama river systems, with the Pontoctoc Ridge the divide. The climate of Mississippi is subtropical in the southern part of the state and temperate in the northern part; the average annual rainfall is more than 50 in. (127 cm).

The state, in the path of waterfowl migration routes down the Mississippi valley and home to many species of birds, is noted for its duck and quail hunting. Along the Gulf Coast, a favorite fishing area, are several resort cities and part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Historical sites in Mississippi include Old Spanish Fort, the oldest house on the Mississippi River, near Pascagoula, as well as Vicksburg National Military Park, Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site, and Tupelo National Battlefield (see National Parks and Monuments, table). In Natchez and Biloxi are many fine antebellum mansions. Jackson is the capital and largest city. Other important cities are Biloxi, Greenville, Hattiesburg, and Meridian.


Mississippi is traditionally one of the more rural states in the Union; not until 1965 did manufacturing take over as the leading revenue-producing sector of its economy. In 2000, Mississippi ranked third in the nation in the production of cotton, but soil erosion resulting from overcultivation and the destruction caused by the boll weevil have led to the increased agricultural diversification. The other most important crops are rice and soybeans. Today broiler chicken production, aquaculture (chiefly catfish raising), and dairying are increasingly important. The state's most valuable mineral resources, petroleum and natural gas, have been developed only since the 1930s.

Industry has grown rapidly with the development of oil resources and has been helped by the Tennessee Valley Authority and by a state program to balance agriculture with industry, under which many communities have subsidized and attracted new industries. Revenue from industrial products, including chemicals, plastics, foods, and wood products, have exceeded those from agriculture in recent years. On the Gulf coast there is a profitable fishing and seafood processing industry, and gambling is important along the Gulf Coast and in long impoversihed Tunica County, in the northwest. There are military air facilities at Columbus, Biloxi, and Meridian, as well as the Stennis Space Flight Center at Bay St. Louis. The state's per capita income, however, has been among the lowest in the nation for decades.

Government and Higher Education

Mississippi is governed under the 1890 constitution. The bicameral legislature consists of 52 senators and 122 representatives, all elected for four-year terms. The governor is also elected for a four-year term. The state has two U.S. senators, four representatives, and six electoral votes. In 1991, Kirk Fordice was elected Mississippi's first Republican governor since Reconstruction; he was reelected in 1995. Democrat Ron Musgrove won the 1999 gubernatorial election but with less than a majority of the vote, which required the state house of representatives to confirm his win. Musgrove lost in 2003 to Republican Haley Barbour; Barbour won a second term in 2007. In 2011 Republican Phil Bryant was elected to succeed Barbour.

Institutions of higher learning in the state include the Univ. of Mississippi, at Oxford (which was also the home of writer William Faulkner) and at Jackson; Mississippi State Univ., at Mississippi State; the Univ. of Southern Mississippi, at Hattiesburg; Jackson State Univ., at Jackson; and Mississippi Univ. for Women, at Columbus.


Native Inhabitants and European Settlement

Hernando De Soto's expedition undoubtedly passed (1540–42) through the region, then inhabited by the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez, but the first permanent European settlement was not made until 1699, when Pierre le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, established a French colony on Biloxi Bay. Settlement accelerated in 1718, when the colony came under the French Mississippi Company, headed by the speculator John Law. The region was part of Louisiana until 1763, when, by the Treaty of Paris (see Paris, Treaty of) England received practically all the French territory E of the Mississippi River and also East Florida and West Florida, which had belonged to Spain.

English colonists, many of them retired soldiers, had made the Natchez district a thriving agricultural community, producing tobacco and indigo, by the time Bernardo de Gálvez captured it for Spain in 1779. By the Treaty of Paris of 1783, at the end of the American Revolution, the United States (with English approval) claimed as its southern boundary in the West lat. 31°N. Most of the present-day state of Mississippi was included in the area. Spain denied this claim, and the long, involved West Florida Controversy ensued.

Territorial Status and Statehood

In the Pinckney Treaty (1795), Spain accepted lat. 31°N as the northern boundary of its territory but did not evacuate Natchez until the arrival of American troops in 1798. Congress immediately created the Mississippi Territory, with Natchez as the capital and William C. C. Claiborne as the governor. After Georgia's cession (1802) of its Western lands to the United States (see Yazoo land fraud) and the Louisiana Purchase (1803), a land boom swept Mississippi. The high price of cotton and the cheap, fertile land brought settlers thronging in, most of them via the Natchez Trace, from the Southern Piedmont region and even from New England. A few attained great wealth, but most simply managed a living.

In 1817 Mississippi became a state, with substantially its present-day boundaries; the eastern section of the Mississippi Territory was organized as Alabama Territory. The aristocratic planter element of the Natchez region initially dominated Mississippi's government, as the state's first constitution (1817) showed. With the spread of Jacksonian democracy, however, the small farmer came into his own, and the new constitution adopted in 1832 was quite liberal for its time.

Expansionism and Secession

Land hunger increased as more new settlers arrived, lured by the continuing cotton boom. By a series of treaties (1820, 1830, and 1832), the Native Americans in the state were pushed west across the Mississippi. Mississippians were among the leading Southern expansionists seeking new land for cotton cultivation and the extension of slavery. After 1840 slaves in the state outnumbered nonslaves.

On Jan. 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union. State pride was highly gratified by the choice of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy. Civil War fighting did not reach Mississippi until Apr., 1862, when Union forces were victorious at Corinth and Iuka. Grant's brilliant Vicksburg campaign ended large-scale fighting in the state, but further destruction was caused by the army of Gen. W. T. Sherman in the course of its march from Vicksburg to Meridian. Moreover, cavalry of both the North and South, particularly the Confederate forces of Gen. N. B. Forrest, remained active.


After the war Mississippi abolished slavery but refused to ratify the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, and in Mar., 1867, under the Congressional plan of Reconstruction, it was organized with Arkansas into a military district commanded by Gen. E. O. C. Ord. After much agitation, a Republican-sponsored constitution guaranteeing basic rights to blacks was adopted in 1869. Mississippi was readmitted to the Union early in 1870 after ratifying the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and meeting other Congressional requirements.

While Republicans were in power, the state government was composed of new immigrants from the North, blacks, and cooperative white Southerners. A. K. Davis became the state's first African-American lieutenant governor in 1874. The establishment of free public schools was a noteworthy aspect of Republican rule. As former Confederates were permitted to return to politics and former slaves were increasingly intimidated (see Ku Klux Klan), the Democrats regained strength. The Republicans were defeated in the bitter election of 1875. Lucius Q. C. Lamar figured largely in the Democratic triumph and was the state's most prominent national figure for many years.

Disenfranchisement and Sharecropping

In Reconstruction days the Republicans could win only with solid African-American support. After Reconstruction blacks were virtually disenfranchised. White supremacy was bolstered by the Constitution of 1890, later used as a model by other Southern states; under its terms a prospective voter could be required to read and interpret any of the Constitution's provisions. Because at the turn of the century most black Mississippians could not read (neither could many whites, but the test was rarely applied to them) and because the county registrar could disqualify prospective voters who disagreed with his interpretation of the Constitution, African Americans were essentially disenfranchised.

From the ruins of the shattered plantation economy rose the sharecropping system, and the merchant and the banker replaced the planter in having the largest financial interest in farming. Too often the system made the sharecroppers, white as well as black, little more than economic slaves. The landowners, however, maintained their hold on politics until 1904, when the small farmers, still the dominant voting group, elected James K. Vardaman governor. Nevertheless this agrarian revolt did not alter a deep-seated obscurantism that was reflected in the Jim Crow laws (1904) and in the ban on teaching evolution in the public schools (1926). Mississippi has made attempts to wipe out illiteracy, but it still has the highest illiteracy rate in the country. Another reflection of the social structure of the state was Prohibition, put into effect in 1908 and not repealed at the local level until 1959.

Public Works

Following the disastrous flood of 1927 the federal government took over flood-control work—constructing levees, floodwalls, floodways, and reservoirs; stabilizing river banks; and improving channels. Navigation, too, has not been neglected; the Intracoastal Waterway provides a protected channel along the entire Mississippi coastline and links the state's ports with all others along the Gulf Coast and with all inland waterway systems emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, opened in 1985, connects the Tennessee River in NE Mississippi with the Tombigbee River in W Alabama.

The Persistence of Racial Conflict

Mississippi is still plagued by racial problems, which have changed the state's alignment in national politics. In 1948 Mississippi abandoned the Democratic party because of the national Democratic party's stand on civil rights, and the state supported J. Strom Thurmond, the States' Rights party candidate, for president. The 1954 Supreme Court ruling against racial segregation in public schools (see integration) occasioned massive resistance. Citizens Councils, composed solely of white men and dedicated to maintaining segregation, began to spring up throughout the state. In the 1960 presidential election Mississippians again rebelled against the Democratic national platform by giving victory at the polls to unpledged electors, who cast their electoral college votes not for John F. Kennedy but for Harry F. Byrd, the conservative senator from Virginia. In 1964 the conservative Republican Barry Goldwater carried the state; in 1968 presidential candidate Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, who had become famous for opposing integration, won the state.

In 1961 mass arrests and violence were touched off when Freedom Riders, actively seeking to spur integration, made Mississippi a major target. However, there was not even token integration of public schools in Mississippi until 1962, when the state government under the leadership of Gov. Ross R. Barnett tried unsuccessfully to block the admission of James H. Meredith, an African American, to the Univ. of Mississippi law school. In the conflict the federal and state governments clashed, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice took legal action against state officials, including Barnett. Two persons were killed in riots, and federal troops had to be called upon to restore order. Racial antagonisms resulted in many more acts of violence: churches and homes were bombed; Medgar Evers, an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was killed in 1963; three civil-rights workers (two white, one black) were murdered the next year; and there were many less publicized outrages.

After the passage of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, many black Mississippians succeeded in registering and voting. In 1967, for the first time since 1890, a black was elected to the legislature, and African Americans, almost 36% of the state's citizens, are now as well represented in Mississippi politics as in any state, with a large degree of cross-racial voting. In spite of these advances, in 1992 it was necessary for the U.S. Supreme Court to order the state college system to end its tradition of segregation.

Natural Disasters and Economic Difficulties

In Aug., 1969, Mississippi and Louisiana were devastated by Camille, one of the century's worst hurricanes. In Apr., 1973, the Mississippi River rose to record levels in the state; floodwaters covered about 9% of Mississippi, including parts of Vicksburg and Natchez, causing massive property damage. Economic problems continued in the 1980s and 1990s, as the state struggled to shift emphasis from manufacturing to the service sector and to avoid the national trend of industrial decline. Mississippi and Louisiana again suffered widespread devastation, even greater than that from Camille, when Hurricane Katrina struck both states in Aug., 2005.


See E. A. Miles, Jacksonian Democracy in Mississippi (1960, repr. 1970); R. A. McLemore, A History of Mississippi (2 vol., 1973); R. D. Cross, ed., Atlas of Mississippi (1974); J. W. Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (1978); J. Kinser, The Cost of Mississippi (1981); N. R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (1989); F. M. Wirt, We Ain't What We Was (1997).

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Biloxi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337

Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349

The State in Brief

Nickname: Magnolia State

Motto: Virtute et armis (By valor and arms)

Flower: Magnolia

Bird: Mockingbird

Area: 48,430 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 32nd)

Elevation: Ranges from sea level to 806 feet above sea level

Climate: Temperate in north and subtropical in south, with long, hot summers and mild winters

Admitted to Union: December 10, 1817

Capital: Jackson

Head Official: Governor Haley Barbour (R) (until 2008)


1980: 2,521,000

1990: 2,573,216

2000: 2,844,658

2004 estimate: 2,902,966

Percent change, 19902000: 10.5%

U.S. rank in 2004: 31st

Percent of residents born in state: 74.3% (2000)

Density: 60.6 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 119,442

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 1,746,099

Black or African American: 1,033,809

American Indian and Alaska Native: 11,652

Asian: 18,626

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 667

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 39,569

Other: 13,784

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 204,364

Population 5 to 19 years old: 668,850

Percent of population 65 years and over: 12.9%

Median age: 33.8 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 42,150

Total number of deaths (2003): 28,882 (infant deaths, 425)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 2,875


Major industries: Transportation equipment, food products, government, trade, agriculture, manufacturing

Unemployment rate: 6.4% (December 2004)

Per capita income: $15,853 (2003; U.S. rank: 51st)

Median household income: $31,887 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 17.9% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: Ranges from 3.0% to 5.0%

Sales tax rate: 7.0%

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Mississippi State in s central USA, on the Gulf of Mexico; the capital and largest city is Jackson. Other major cities are Meridian, Biloxi, Vicksburg, and Laurel. The French claimed the region in 1682, but it passed to Britain after the Seven Years' War. The Territory of Mississippi organized in 1798. The state seceded from the Union in 1861. It was a battleground during the American Civil War. Racial segregation remained in force until the 1960s, when the state was a focus of the civil-rights movement. The land slopes w from the hills of the ne to the Delta, a fertile plain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Pine forests cover most of the s of the state as far as the coastal plain. Primarily an agricultural state, Mississippi is the leading producer of cotton in the USA; hay and soya beans are also grown. Dairy farming is of great importance. There are valuable reserves of oil and natural gas. Other industries: clothing, wood products, chemicals. Area: 123,515sq km (47,689sq mi). Pop. (2000) 2,844,658.

Statehood :

December 10, 1817

Nickname :

Magnolia State

State bird :


State flower :


State tree :


State motto :

By valour and arms

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The words "Mississippi" and "delta" are closely associated in the public's mind with Mississippi history. The delta region indeed dominated the cotton-growing economy that was the mainstay of life in the state for many decades. Contemporary Mississippi, however, has diversified its economy and now has a significant industrial sector. In the late 1990s, the state continued to struggle to bring itself out of a past which has often placed it last among all states in per capita income.

The Spanish explorers who came to the region of Mississippi with Hernando de Soto in 15401541 did not find the wealth they sought and soon lost interest in further exploration. A Frenchman, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, explored the lower Mississippi Valley in 1682. He discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River, naming the whole region Louisiana in honor of his king, Louis XIV. The French soon established settlements at Biloxi Bay, Mobile, Natchez, and New Orleans. The area changed hands several times, first from the French to the Spanish in 1762. In 1763 Spain ceded the portion east of the Mississippi to England, but the Spanish recaptured West Florida during the American Revolution (17751783). Spain relinquished its hold on the Natchez region, ceding it to the United States in 1795.

The U.S. Congress reorganized the Mississippi Territory in 1798. Alabama, originally part of Mississippi, became a separate territory in 1817. After many settlers from the South, Mid-Atlantic, and New England states had migrated to Mississippi to farm its rich alluvial soil, Congress made it the twentieth state in 1817.

Mississippi was a true frontier territory prior to the American Civil War (18611865): It was freewheeling, violent, and full of aggressive adventurers. Joseph G. Baldwin, a Virginia lawyer who came to Mississippi, described the speculative furor of the period: "Money, or what passed for money, was the only cheap thing to be had. . . . Credit was a thing of course. To refuse it . . . were an insult for which a bowie knife were not a too summary or exemplary means of redress. The State banks were issuing their bills by the sheet. . . ."

When Mississippi became a state, the northern two-thirds of the region was still dominated by Native American tribes. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson (18291837), treaties ceded most of this land to the United States and sent Native Americans off to the Oklahoma Territory. Although an aristocratic planter economy grew up around the Natchez area, large plantations did not dominate the whole economy prior to the war. Mississippi society was instead governed by an alliance of large and small landowners. An indication of the importance of slavery to the state's economy was that slaves comprised 52 percent of the population and whites only 48 percent by the end of the 1830s.

The opening of the fertile lands of northern Mississippi caused an inrush of settlers and a flurry of land speculation. The cotton economy, with its slave workforce, came to dominate the state. The land was rich and the cotton economy made many planters wealthy, but the work was hard and life was monotonous in Mississippi. Aside from church and the general store, there was little in the way of recreational or cultural institutions. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, came from a family which in one generation had risen from poverty in Kentucky to affluence, social standing and political preeminence in the new land of Mississippi.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union in an attempt to preserve the slave system as the mainstay of the state's economy. During the Civil War, Mississippi was at the center of much of the action. Much political, social, and economic turmoil followed the war under the governance of Reconstruction (18651877) Republicans. After the Democrats successfully regained power in 1875, the bitter memories of Reconstruction caused Mississippi whites to institute a system that repressed the rights of former slaves even further.

The prime cotton-growing country in Mississippi was always the fertile Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, located in the northwestern part of the state. Because of persistent flooding problems, this area did not become a plantation economy until after the Civil War. Planters along this section of the Mississippi, according to historian John Ray Skates, "drained the lands, built the levees, and cleared the forests, [achieving] some of the grandiose style of their prewar Natchez counterparts. Here the plantation system still dominates, in recent times with machines and chemicals rather than sharecroppers."

Economic stagnation plagued Mississippi from the postwar period into the 1940s. Black sharecroppers on the cotton farms fared nearly as badly as they had under slavery. Many white small farmers were also driven into sharecropping; in 1890, 63 percent of Mississippi farmers were tenants. During this period the practice of leasing convicts to private plantations was also widespread, adding yet another layer of poor and underprivileged workers to the economy. For some of these leased convicts life was possibly harder than it had been under slavery. With a nearly totally agrarian system, the state exported raw materials and had to import most of its manufactured goods. Many former planter-aristocrats dominated state government and all tried to keep the blacks in an inferior position. Fearing a return to Reconstruction and exhibiting deep-set prejudices, whites above all succeeded in maintaining their political and economic domination.

The Great Depression of the 1930s (19291939) made things even worse in the state, bringing Mississippi's poor farmers to desperation. Cotton sank to five cents a pound in 1932, while one-fourth of the state's farmland was given up for nonpayment of taxes. Although federal agricultural payments begun during the New Deal helped to hasten the end of tenant farming, had World War II (19391945) not brought economic relief to Mississippi, the state might have headed for disaster. Armed forces personnel who came into the state helped to lift it out of its provincialism. Industrial growth and increased mechanization of agriculture finally began to bring Mississippi into the twentieth century. Between 1941 and 1945 the per capita annual income in Mississippi rose from $313 to $627, and more and more citizens began to retire their debts. At the same time many African Americans, encouraged by reports of better economic conditions elsewhere, began to move out of the state to find higher-paying jobs.

The waterways of Mississippi have always been vital to its development. The Mississippi, the largest commercial river in the country, links the Gulf of Mexico to many inland river states. The Tennessee-Tombigbee canal, completed in 1984, links the Tennessee and Ohio rivers with the Gulf. The state has two deepwater ports, Gulfport and Pascagoula; other ports include Biloxi and Port Bienville.

By the 1980s Mississippi was an industrial state, and cotton was no longer the only important agricultural product. Agricultural production was now dominated by cotton, rice, soybeans, and cattle. Mississippi had survived the dark days of segregation and the upheaval of the civil rights movement. Its leaders had finally recognized that the inequalities built into a segregated system did not tend to attract the kind of industries the state sought. By the mid-1960s manufacturing was providing more jobs than agriculture, in part because of a weak labor movement and low wages. In the 1970s many of the low-paying industries such as the garment and wood product trades were de-emphasized in favor of heavy industries manufacturing products like transportation and electronics equipment. In spite of the state's economic strides in the last few decades of the twentieth century, Mississippi remained poor in the late 1990s. In 1996 it ranked 50th among all states in per capita personal income, at only $17,471, and nearly 24 percent of the population fell below the federal poverty level. In 19951996, however, the per capita income growth rate was ranked fifteenth in the nation.

See also: Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi River, Plantations, Sharecropping


Baldwin, Joseph G. The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1853.

Bettersworth, John K. Your Mississippi. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn, 1975.

Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 19941995 Edition, vol. 30. Lexington: KY: The Council of State Governments, 1994.

McLemore, Richard A., ed. A History of Mississippi. 2 vols. Hattiesburg, MS: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1973.

Skates, John Ray. Mississippi: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1979.

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