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, state, United States

Mississippi (mĭsˌəsĭpˈē), 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. (2020) 2,976,149, a 0.3% increase since the 2010 census. As of the 2020 census, the state's population was: White alone, 59.1%; Black alone, 37.8%; Hispanic or Latino, 3.4%; American Indian and Alaska native alone, 0.6%; Asian alone, 1.1%; Two or More Races, 1.3%. 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. Democrats dominated state politics from Reconstruction until the early '90s; the state is now strongly Republican.

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.

In 1991, Kirk Fordice was elected Mississippi's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, serving two terms. 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 (2004-2012), who had previously been the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Conservative Republicans have governed the state over the last decade. Phil Bryant (2012-2020) championed education reform and encouraged business investment in the state, but opposed removing the Confederate saltire from the state flag. He was followed by current governor Tate Reeves, a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

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 and then in Aug. 2021 during Hurricane Ida.


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).


, river, Canada
Mississippi, river, c.100 mi (160 km) long, rising E of the Kawartha Lakes, S Ont., Canada, and flowing NE through Mississippi Lake, then N to the Ottawa River near Arnprior. It is navigable for small steamers.


, river, United States
Mississippi, river, principal river of the United States, c.2,350 mi (3,780 km) long, exceeded in length only by the Missouri, the chief of its numerous tributaries. The combined Missouri-Mississippi system (from the Missouri's headwaters in the Rocky Mts. to the mouth of the Mississippi) is c.3,740 mi (6,020 km) long and ranks as the world's third longest river system after the Nile and the Amazon. With its tributaries, the Mississippi drains c.1,231,000 sq mi (3,188,290 sq km) of the central United States, including all or part of 31 states and c.13,000 sq mi (33,670 sq km) of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. Cotton and rice are important crops in the lower Mississippi valley; sugarcane is raised in the delta. The Mississippi is abundant in freshwater fish; shrimp are taken from the briny delta waters. The delta also yields sulfur, oil, and gas.

Course and Navigation

The Mississippi River rises in small streams that feed Lake Itasca (alt. 1,463 ft/446 m) in N Minnesota and flows generally south to enter the Gulf of Mexico through a huge delta in SE Louisiana. A major economic waterway, the river is navigable from the sediment-free channel maintained through South Pass in the delta to the Falls of St. Anthony in Minneapolis, with canals circumventing the rapids near Rock Island, Ill., and Keokuk, Iowa. For the low-water months of July, August, and September, there is a 45-ft (13.7-m) channel navigable by oceangoing vessels from Head of the Passes to Baton Rouge, La., and a 9-ft (2.7-m) channel from Baton Rouge deep enough for barges and towboats to Minneapolis. The Mississippi connects with the Intracoastal Waterway in the south and with the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway system in the north by way of the Illinois Waterway.

Along the river's upper course shipping is interrupted by ice from December to March; thick, hazardous fogs frequently settle on the cold waters of the unfrozen sections during warm spells from December to May. In its upper course the river is controlled by numerous dams and falls c.700 ft (210 m) in the 513-mi (826-km) stretch from Lake Itasca to Minneapolis and then falls c.490 ft (150 m) in 856 mi (1,378 km) from Minneapolis to Cairo, Ill. The Mississippi River receives the Missouri River 17 mi (27 km) N of St. Louis and expands to a width of c.3,500 ft (1,070 m); it swells to c.4,500 ft (1,370 m) at Cairo, where it receives the Ohio River. The stretch of the river from the last dam and locks, above St. Louis, to Cairo is also known as the middle Mississippi.

The lower Mississippi meanders in great loops across a broad alluvial plain (25–125 mi/40–201 km wide) that stretches from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the delta region S of Natchez, Miss. The plain is marked with oxbow lakes and marshes that are remnants of the river's former channels. Natural levees, built up from sediment carried and deposited in times of flood, border the river for much of its length; sediment has also been deposited on the riverbed, so that in places the surface of the Mississippi is above that of the surrounding plain, as evidenced by the St. Francis, Black, Yazoo, and Tensas river basins. Breaks in the levees frequently flood the fertile bottomlands of these and other low-lying areas of the plain.

The Mississippi Delta

After receiving the Arkansas and Red rivers, the Mississippi enters a birdsfoot-type delta, which was built outward by sediment carried by the main stream since c.A.D. 1500 It then discharges into the Gulf of Mexico through a number of distributaries, the most important being the Atchafalaya River and Bayou Lafourche. The main stream continues southeast through the delta to enter the gulf through several mouths, including Southeast Pass, South Pass, and Pass à Loutre. Indications that the Mississippi River might abandon this course and divert through the Atchafalaya River led to the construction of a series of dams, locks, and canals by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Known as the Old River Control Structure, it was undertaken to prevent such an occurrence. Sluggish bayous and freshwater lakes (such as Pontchartrain, Grand, and Salvador) dot the delta region.

Regarding the delta, environmentalists and those in the seafood industry are concerned by the loss of 25–45 sq mi (65–104 sq km) of marsh a year; fish and wildlife populations are threatened as their natural habitat slowly disappears. The loss has been attributed to subsidence and a decrease in sediment largely due to dams, artificial channeling, and land conservation measures. Pollution and the cutting of new waterways for petroleum exploration and drilling have also taken their toll on the delta. Louisiana has enacted environmental protection laws that are expected to slow, but not halt, the loss of the delta marshes.

Attempts at Flood Control

The flow of the river is greatest in the spring, when heavy rainfall and melting snow on the tributaries (especially the Missouri and the Ohio) cause the main stream to rise and frequently overflow its banks and levees, inundating vast areas of the plain. Since the disastrous flood of 1927 the U.S. Congress has authorized the construction of dams on the upper Mississippi and its tributaries to regulate the flow; the building of c.1,600 mi (2,580 km) of levees below Cape Girardeau to contain the swollen river; and the establishment of floodways to divert water at critical points, such as the Cairo–New Madrid, Atchafalaya, and Morganza floodways and the Bonnet Carre Spillway at New Orleans, which diverts water into Lake Pontchartrain. Cutoffs have eliminated the dangerous winding channels, and an improved main channel has increased the river's flood-carrying capacity. A 220-acre (89-hectare) model of the Mississippi River basin is located at Clinton, Miss., which has been used by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to simulate various conditions in the basin.

Nonetheless, serious, record-breaking floods again occurred in the rainy spring of 1973, when the river crested at St. Louis at 43.3 ft (13.2 m), and again in the summer of 1993, when the river crested at St. Louis at 49.6 ft (15.1 m), killing 50 people, displacing 50,000, and causing $12 billion in agricultural and property damage. In the spring of 2011, heavy rains in April in the S central Mississippi river basin led to near-record high water and flooding from parts of Missouri and Illinois south. In the first half of 2019 there was significant and persistent flooding in many parts of the Mississippi-Missouri basin. The narrow river channel that has been created by building levees has worsened flooding in some instances.

In 1988 a severe drought brought water levels down to their lowest point in recorded history and halted most river traffic. Severe drought again threatened to halt traffic in the middle Mississippi in 2012–13, but dredging and other channel deepening measures kept the river open.


The Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto is credited with the European discovery of the Mississippi River in 1541. The French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reached it through the Wisconsin River in 1673, and in 1682 La Salle traveled down the river to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire territory for France. The French founded New Orleans in 1718 and effectively extended control over the upper river basin with settlements at Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Prairie du Chien, and St. Louis. France ceded the river to Spain in 1763 but regained it in 1800; the United States acquired the Mississippi River as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

A major artery for the Native Americans and the fur-trading French, the river became in the 19th cent. the principal outlet for the newly settled areas of mid-America; exports were floated downstream with the current, and imports were poled or dragged upstream on rafts and keelboats. The first steamboat plied the river in 1811, and successors became increasingly luxurious as river trade increased in profitability and importance; the era is colorfully described in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (1883).

Traffic from the north ceased after the outbreak of the Civil War. During the Civil War the Mississippi was an invasion route for Union armies and the scene of many important battles. Especially decisive were the capture of New Orleans (1862) by Adm. David Farragut, the Union naval commander, and the victory of Union forces under Grant at Vicksburg in 1863. River traffic resumed after the war, but much of the trade was lost to the railroads. With modern improvements in the channels of the river there has been a great increase in traffic, especially since the mid-1950s, with principal freight items being petroleum products, chemicals, sand, gravel, and limestone.


See B. Keating, The Mighty Mississippi (1971); P. V. Scarpino, Great River: An Environmental History of the Upper Mississippi (1985); M. M. Smart et al., ed., Ecological Perspectives of the Upper Mississippi River (1986); J. M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America (1997); C. Morris, The Big Muddy (2012); P. Schneider, Old Man River (2013).

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Mississippi State Information

Phone: (601) 359-1000

Area (sq mi):: 48430.19 (land 46906.96; water 1523.24) Population per square mile: 62.30
Population 2005: 2,921,088 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 2.70%; 1990-2000 10.50% Population 2000: 2,844,658 (White 60.70%; Black or African American 36.30%; Hispanic or Latino 1.40%; Asian 0.70%; Other 1.60%). Foreign born: 1.40%. Median age: 33.80
Income 2000: per capita $15,853; median household $31,330; Population below poverty level: 19.90% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $21,005-$23,466
Unemployment (2004): 6.30% Unemployment change (from 2000): 0.60% Median travel time to work: 24.60 minutes Working outside county of residence: 31.90%

List of Mississippi counties:

  • Adams County
  • Alcorn County
  • Amite County
  • Attala County
  • Benton County
  • Bolivar County
  • Calhoun County
  • Carroll County
  • Chickasaw County
  • Choctaw County
  • Claiborne County
  • Clarke County
  • Clay County
  • Coahoma County
  • Copiah County
  • Covington County
  • DeSoto County
  • Forrest County
  • Franklin County
  • George County
  • Greene County
  • Grenada County
  • Hancock County
  • Harrison County
  • Hinds County
  • Holmes County
  • Humphreys County
  • Issaquena County
  • Itawamba County
  • Jackson County
  • Jasper County
  • Jefferson County
  • Jefferson Davis County
  • Jones County
  • Kemper County
  • Lafayette County
  • Lamar County
  • Lauderdale County
  • Lawrence County
  • Leake County
  • Lee County
  • Leflore County
  • Lincoln County
  • Lowndes County
  • Madison County
  • Marion County
  • Marshall County
  • Monroe County
  • Montgomery County
  • Neshoba County
  • Newton County
  • Noxubee County
  • Oktibbeha County
  • Panola County
  • Pearl River County
  • Perry County
  • Pike County
  • Pontotoc County
  • Prentiss County
  • Quitman County
  • Rankin County
  • Scott County
  • Sharkey County
  • Simpson County
  • Smith County
  • Stone County
  • Sunflower County
  • Tallahatchie County
  • Tate County
  • Tippah County
  • Tishomingo County
  • Tunica County
  • Union County
  • Walthall County
  • Warren County
  • Washington County
  • Wayne County
  • Webster County
  • Wilkinson County
  • Winston County
  • Yalobusha County
  • Yazoo County
  • Counties USA: A Directory of United States Counties, 3rd Edition. © 2006 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

    Mississippi Parks

    Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



    a state in the southern USA. Area, 123,600 sq km. Population, 2.2 million (1970), of whom 36.7 percent are Negroes and 44.5 percent urban dwellers. The capital and largest city is Jackson. Most of the surface is a low-lying plain intersected by numerous left tributaries of the Mississippi River, which forms the state’s western boundary. The state has a subtropical humid climate. Deciduous forests of oak, hickory, poplar, and maple are found in the north and pine forests flourish in the south. Along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico there are thickets of swamp cypress.

    Mississippi is one of the agrarian states of the former slave-holding South. The chief crop is cotton, cultivated chiefly in the Mississippi and Yazoo valleys. It is the nation’s second leading producer of cotton, after Texas (382,000 tons in 1970). Soybeans, corn, rice, wheat, and sugarcane are also grown. In early 1971 there were 2.5 million head of cattle (191,000 dairy cows) and 632,000 hogs. Poultry farming is well developed. The strengthening of capitalist relations in rural areas accelerated the destruction of small farms, whose number declined from 251,000 in 1950 to 91,000 in 1972.

    Petroleum and natural gas are produced (9 million tons of oil in 1970). In 1972 the total capacity of power plants was 3.4 gigawatts. Processing industries employ 186,000 persons. The main industries are food processing, textiles, clothing, paper, chemicals, and shipbuilding.

    The standard of living among workers, especially Negroes, is low; about 35 percent of the population was officially listed as poor in 1969. There is considerable migration to other states.




    (in the local Indian language, “great river”), a river in the USA and one of the world’s largest rivers. It is 3,950 km long (6,420 km from the headwaters of the Missouri). Its basin stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, covering 3,268,000 sq km, or 40 percent of the area of the USA excluding Alaska. The largest right tributaries are the Minnesota, Des Moines, Missouri, Arkansas, and Red rivers, and the major left tributaries are the Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio rivers.

    The Mississippi rises in the northern USA, in Nicollet Creek, crosses the USA from north to south, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico, forming a vast delta. The Mississippi Valley was cut in the direction of the main flow of the waters of North America’s Quaternary glaciation. In terms of the morphologic structure of its valley and its regime the Mississippi is divided into three sections, separated by the mouths of the largest tributaries, the Missouri and the Ohio.

    In its upper course the river initially flows through small lakes. There are rapids and rocky bars, the largest of which are found near Minneapolis (Falls of St. Anthony), Davenport, and Keokuk. More than 20 dams have been built between Minneapolis and the mouth of the Missouri. In its middle course the river flows primarily through a single channel, and the valley, from 10 km to 15 km wide, is bounded by steep bluffs. Below St. Louis the muddy water of the Missouri flows for 150–180 km alongside the relatively clear current of the Mississippi. In its lower course the river flows through a broad plain composed of alluvial deposits, and the width of the valley gradually widens from 25 km to 70–100 km. The riverbed meanders and has numerous arms and oxbow lakes, forming a maze of channels, oxbow lakes, and floodplain swamps that are inundated during floods. Along almost the entire stretch the riverbed is bounded by natural levees, reinforced, for purposes of flood control, by a system of artificial levees extending for about 4,000 km. In places the river, flowing between levees, is higher than the floodplain. Below Baton Rouge begins the fanshaped delta, covering more than 32,000 sq km and extending into the sea in some places at the rate of 85–100 m annually.

    Each year the Mississippi carries into the sea an average of about 360 million tons of sediment. At the end of the delta the river branches into six relatively short channels from 20 km to 40 km long, which empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The most important of these channels is the Southwest Pass, which carries more than 30 percent of the river’s discharge. During flood periods in the lower course of the river some of its discharge empties into Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, which holds the floodwaters that threaten the city. Some of the floodwaters are also diverted into the Atchafalaya River, flowing parallel to the Mississippi 15–40 km to the west and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

    The river is fed by both snow and rain. The right tributaries carry mainly meltwater from the Rocky Mountains, and the left tributaries bring rain and torrential waters. High water and rain floods occur in spring and summer. The highest floods occur when the thawing of the snow in the upper Mississippi and Missouri basins coincides with heavy rains in the basin of the Ohio, which carries considerably more water than the Mississippi at the confluence of the two rivers. In such cases there are large floods in the middle and lower courses of the Mississippi, and such inundations are typical of all the river’s large tributaries. Disastrous floods in the Mississippi basin occurred in 1844, 1903, 1913, 1927, 1937, 1947, 1951, 1952, and 1965. Hydraulic engineering structures have been built in the lower course, but even these cannot fully protect the river valley from frequent overflows.

    The river’s average annual discharge is 19,000 cu m per sec at the mouth; it reaches 50,000–80,000 cu m per sec during catastrophic floods and decreases to 3,000–5,000 cu m per sec during the summer low-water period. Annual fluctuations in the water level average 7.2 m at St. Paul, 14.3 m at St. Louis, 18.3 m at Cairo, and 5–6 m at New Orleans. The upper course of the Mississippi freezes over for three or four months.

    The Mississippi is a convenient waterway from the Gulf of Mexico to the continent’s interior and an important transportation artery connecting the country’s developed industrial and agricultural regions. Although its significance as a waterway declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of competition from railroads, the industrial development of the Great Lakes region, especially after World War II, has made the Mississippi increasingly important. The Illinois Waterway, which begins on Lake Michigan at Chicago and passes through a system of canals, canalized rivers, and the Illinois River, a left tributary of the Mississippi, connects the Mississippi with the Great Lakes basin and the St. Lawrence Seaway, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. At New Orleans, one of the country’s largest ocean and river ports, the Mississippi crosses the Coastal Canal, an artificial waterway connecting the industrial regions along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. There is river navigation as far as St. Paul (more than 3,000 km from the mouth), and ocean ships reach Baton Rouge. More than 25,000 km of the Mississippi-Missouri system are navigable, and the annual freight turnover on the lower Mississippi reaches 7 million tons. The principal cargoes are petroleum products, building materials, coal, and chemicals.

    The potential hydroelectric resources of the rivers of the Mississippi basin are 27.5 gigawatts, and the developed capacity is about 7 gigawatts. The largest hydroelectric power plant, at Keokuk, has a capacity of 120 megawatts. In the lower reaches a slow drop in elevation and a poorly developed river valley hinder the construction of hydroelectric power plants. The major cities and ports are Minneapolis and St. Paul, Davenport, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.


    Galochkin, N. P. “Gidroenergeticheskie resursy basseina r. Mississippi i ikh ispol’zovanie.” Gidrotekhnicheskoe stroitel’stvo, 1963, no. 1.
    Muranov, A. P. Velichaishie reki mira. Leningrad, 1968.
    Ackerman, E. A. Water Resources in the United States. Washington, 1958.
    Price, W. “The Upper Mississippi.” National Geographic Magazine, 1958, vol. 114, no. 5.
    Price, W. “The Lower Mississippi.” National Geographic Magazine, 1960, vol. 118, no. 5.


    The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


    Twentieth state; admitted on December 10, 1817 (seceded on Janu­ary 9, 1861, and was readmitted on February 23, 1870)

    No admission day celebrations occur, but in 1917 the state held centennial ceremonies including speeches and music. On the sesquicentennial, or 150th, anniversary in 1967, there were exhibits at the Old Capitol Building museum, and efforts got underway to preserve state historical documents (including appropriating $1,120,000 for building a new archives center).

    State capital: Jackson Nicknames: The Magnolia State; Eagle State; Border-Eagle

    State; Bayou State; Mud-cat State State motto: Virtute et armis (Latin “By valor and arms”) State beverage: Milk State bird: Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) State butterfly: Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) State dance: Square dance State fish: Largemouth or black bass (Micropterus salmoides) State flower: Magnolia blossom (Magnolia grandiflora);

    wildflower: Coreopsis State fossil: Prehistoric whale State insect: Honeybee (Apis mellifera) State mammal: land: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgini­

    anus); water: Bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) State reptile: Alligator State shell: Oyster shell (Crassostrea virginica) State song: “Go, Mississippi” State stone: Petrified wood State toy: Teddy bear State tree: Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) State waterfowl: Wood duck (Aix sponsa)

    More about state symbols at:


    More about the state at:



    AmerBkDays-2000, p. 822
    AnnivHol-2000, p. 205


    State web site:

    Office of the Governor
    PO Box 139
    Jackson, MS 39205
    fax: 601-359-3741

    Secretary of State PO Box 136 Jackson, MS 39205 601-359-1350 fax: 601-359-1499 www.sos.state.ms.us

    Mississippi Library Commission 1221 Ellis Ave Jackson, MS 39209 601-961-4111 fax: 601-354-4181 www.mlc.lib.ms.us

    Archives & History Dept PO Box 571 Jackson, MS 39205 601-576-6850 fax: 601-576-6899 www.mdah.state.ms.us

    Legal Holidays:

    Confederate Memorial DayApr 25, 2011; Apr 30, 2012; Apr 29, 2013; Apr 28, 2014; Apr 27, 2015; Apr 25, 2016; Apr 24, 2017; Apr 30, 2018; Apr 29, 2019; Apr 27, 2020; Apr 26, 2021; Apr 25, 2022; Apr 24, 2023
    Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday and Robert E. Lee's BirthdayJan 17, 2011; Jan 16, 2012; Jan 21, 2013; Jan 20, 2014; Jan 19, 2015; Jan 18, 2016; Jan 16, 2017; Jan 15, 2018; Jan 21, 2019; Jan 20, 2020; Jan 18, 2021; Jan 17, 2022; Jan 16, 2023
    Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis's BirthdayMay 30, 2011; May 28, 2012; May 27, 2013; May 26, 2014; May 25, 2015; May 30, 2016; May 29, 2017; May 28, 2018; May 27, 2019; May 25, 2020; May 31, 2021; May 30, 2022; May 29, 2023
    Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


    1. a state of the southeastern US, on the Gulf of Mexico: consists of a largely forested undulating plain, with swampy regions in the northwest and on the coast, the Mississippi River forming the W border; cotton, rice, and oil. Capital: Jackson. Pop.: 2 881 281 (2003 est.). Area: 122 496 sq. km (47 296 sq. miles)
    2. a river in the central US, rising in NW Minnesota and flowing generally south to the Gulf of Mexico through several mouths, known as the Passes: the second longest river in North America (after its tributary, the Missouri), with the third largest drainage basin in the world (after the Amazon and the Congo). Length: 3780 km (2348 miles)
    Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
    References in periodicals archive ?
    Roy Coats, director of the Ole Miss Band, wrote the song "Mississippi That Grand Old State of Mine," which he dedicated to then former Governor Dennis Murphree and the Know Mississippi Better Train.
    Olga McDaniel, Co-Chair, University of Mississippi Medical Center
    East Mississippi won the last two National Junior College Athletic Association national championships.
    By the end of the 19th century, most Mississippi Choctaws owned no land, had the barest of property, and were on the edge of starvation.
    "I think it is very important for everyone from the White House to our congressional delegation and the bureaucrats in the Energy Department to know that this agency stands unified against any efforts to make Mississippi America's nuclear waste dump," Presley said.
    * Mississippi ranks 2nd in reported cases of gonorrhea among young people ages 15-19 in the U.S.
    The Central Female Institute opened in Clinton four blocks north of the campus of Mississippi College in the fall of 1853.
    The Mississippi River crest continues to move south and is expected to occur in the Greenville, Miss.
    Contact: Robbie Wilbur, Mississippi DEQ, (601) 961-5277.
    6 April 2010 - AM Best lifted Monday to "positive" from "stable" the outlook on the B++(good) financial strength rating (FSR) and "bbb+" issuer credit rating (ICR) of US Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co (Mississippi FB Casualty).
    Holmes County is not unique as these issues are prevalent throughout the Mississippi Delta region.

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