Mississippi, state in the Southeastern United States, bordering on the Gulf of Mexico. Early explored by the Spanish and colonized by the French, Mississippi’s warm climate and rich soil proved ideally suited to cotton, which became the main crop even before 1800 and remained the mainstay of its economy until the 20th century.
Anglo-Saxon settlers from the older seaboard states flocked to Mississippi’s virgin lands, bringing black slaves to work their fields, and until 1940 blacks outnumbered whites. Even today Mississippi has a larger percentage of blacks than any other state. Relations between the races have tended to shape Mississippi’s history and to foster a conservative political philosophy and an insistence on state’s rights among its white majority.
In recent years, however, blacks have begun to enter political and economic realms formerly virtually closed to them. At the same time, “king” cotton has made room for a more diversified agriculture, and Mississippi has undergone an industrial boom. Although Mississippians still cherish the columned mansions and hallowed traditions of their past, they can now boast a diversified industrial and agricultural economy. Mississippi entered the Union on December 10, 1817, as the 20th state. Jackson, Mississippi’s capital and largest city, was founded at about the same time. The state takes its name from the Mississippi River, the great waterway that forms the state’s western boundary. The river’s name was derived from an Algonquin term for “big river.” Mississippi is commonly nicknamed the Magnolia State because of the great number of magnolia trees that grow within its borders. The blossom of the magnolia is the state flower. Encarta © "United States" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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