Geography and Landforms:

Mississippi is bordered by Tennessee on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. On the east, Mississippi borders Alabama, and on the west, Arkansas and Louisiana. The highest point in Mississippi is Woodall Mountain, although it can hardly be called a mountain, being only 806 feet above sea level. The major rivers of the state are the Mississippi River, the Big Black River, the Pearl River, and the Yazoo River.

There is a low fertile delta of land between the Yazoo and the Mississippi Rivers, but much of the state is composed of sandy coastal terraces, pine woods, and prairie.


The first European to explore the area that is now Mississippi was Spaniard Hernando De Soto in 1540. De Soto and others were looking for gold. Finding none in the area, they left and did not return. It wasn't until 1682 that a French explorer, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle clamed the entire Mississippi Valley for his country and named it Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.

In 1699, Pierre de Moyne founded the first European settlement in Mississippi at Old Biloxi (now called Ocean Springs) as a French settlement. His brother, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, founded Fort Rosalie (now the site of Natchez) in 1716. The early colonists brought with them black slaves to work in the tobacco, rice and indigo fields, and during the 1700s, settlers began to move to Mississippi.

The native Natchez Indians fought against European settlement, and in 1730, French troops killed nearly every tribe member. However, the French would come into conflict with British troops and settlers vying for territory, and eventually, the Chickasaw Indians allied with the British to drive the French from northeast Mississippi. Following the French and Indian War in 1763, the Treaty of Paris gave England all the land east of the Mississippi River. The current state of Mississippi was then divided into two portions: the southern part became part of the British province of West Florida and the remaining became part of the colony of Georgia.

The Revolutionary War (1775--1783) determined that England's land east of the Mississippi would become part of the new United States. However, Spain had taken over the portion of present-day Mississippi that was in the province of West Florida. Difficulties between Spain and France led to that area again reverting to the French, but in 1803, the US acquisition of the area called the Louisiana Purchase made all the land bordering the Mississippi River part of the United States. At first, the area that includes today's states of Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Florida was known as the Mississippi Territory. In 1817, Mississippi became the 20th state, and the remainder of the territorial area became the Alabama Territory.

During the early years of the nineteenth century, cotton became the major crop in Mississippi. This was encouraged by the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. Slave labor was used to operate large cotton plantations, and by 1860, there were more black slaves than white settlers in the state. The issue of slavery was, therefore, of primary importance in the state. In 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Mississippi native Jefferson Davis was the Confederacy's president.

Mississippi became the site of a number of important battles during the Civil War, including the Battle of Vicksburg. The Confederates surrendered Vickburg after a 47-day siege. This gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and was an important turning point in the war. Two years later, in 1865, the war was over. At that point, Mississippi was placed under military control and all slaves were freed. By 1869, the state passed a new constitution granting black people the right to vote, and one year later, Mississippi was readmitted to the Union. The new law did not change the minds of many citizens of the state, and racial discrimination did not end. The drastic change in the state's economy after the end of an agricultural system powered by slave labor left many suffering from poverty.


Mississippi has long been one of the most rural states in the US. In the year 2000, Mississippi ranked third in the nation in the production of cotton. Other important crops are rice and soybeans. In addition, industry related to the production of chickens, catfish, and dairying are becoming more important to the state economy.

Industry has grown more rapidly with the development of oil resources, and in recent years, industrial products such as chemicals, plastics and wood products have become more profitable to the state than agriculture.

First Inhabitants:

Before Europeans began to explore the area now known as Mississippi, three major Native American groups lived there. In the north and the eastern parts of the state were the Chickasaw. The Choctaw lived in the central part of territory and the Natchez lived in the southwest.

The Chickasaw were formidable warriors who lived in villages along streams and rivers. Men and women wore clothes made of buckskin in the summer and added buffalo robes in colder weather. Both men and women had long hair. The ultimate badge of honor for a Chickasaw warrior was a mantle, or robe, made out of swan feathers.

Groups of Chickasaw were generally independent of one another politically, but would organize together in times of war. Beginning during the American Revolution, Chickasaw lands in the Mississippi River area were confiscated because the Chickasaw supported the British. Eventually, because of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, the Chickasaw were re-settled in southeast Oklahoma on land that belonged to their former neighbors, the Choctaw.

The Choctaw people's legends say they originated from "Nanih Waya" (which means Protective Mound), a sacred hill near what is now Noxapter, Mississippi. Similar to the Chickasaw, the Choctaw were actually a loose confederation of clans or groups, each with its own village chief. Before they were relocated to Oklahoma, however, the Choctaw had developed their first Constitution, which served as a governing document for the entire tribe.

Books Related To Mississippi

The Aurora County All-Stars - Deborah Wiles
(978-0152066260) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 750, ESL level: 3
The local boys' Independence Day baseball game comes under a shadow when the pitcher discovers secrets about the town's history.

Crossing Bok Chitto: a Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom - Tim Tingle
(978-1933693200) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 4
A Choctaw girl helps a young male slave and his family get to freedom.

Each Little Bird that Sings - Deborah Wiles
(978-0152056575) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3
Although Comfort's family owns the local funeral home, she has a rough time when her uncle dies.

Glory Be - Augusta Scattergood
(978-0545331807) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 2 - 3
A small Mississippi town's government decides to close their local swimming pool rather than allow integration.

How I found the Strong - Margaret McMullan
(978-0553494921) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 860, ESL level: 3
Both Frank's life and his views on slavery change when he is left behind by soldier father and brother during the Civil War, and he gets to know the family slave a lot better.

M is for Magnolia: A Mississippi Alphabet - Michael Shoulders
(978-1585361298) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book featuers all the things that are special about the state of Mississippi.

Mississippi Trial 1955 - Chris Crowe
(978-0142501924) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 4
A teen Mississippi boy disagrees with his grandfather's assessment of the Emmett Till case in 1955.

The Return of Gabriel - John Armistead
(978-0756934606) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-9, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3 - 4
A pre-teen boy faces conflicts when his small town is battling civil rights workers and the KKK, but his best friend is African American.

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry - Mildred Taylor
(978-0142401125) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 920, ESL level: 4
The African American children in a Mississippi family do not understand why whites exhibit prejudice against them just because they are black.

A Thousand Never Evers - Shana Burg
(978-0440422099) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-12, Lexile: 830, ESL level: 3
Despite the increase of violence in a small Mississippi town due to the Civil Rights Movement, the African American citizens persevere with their goal of equal rights.

When I Crossed No-Bob - Margaret McMullan
(978-0547237633) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 3 - 4
Addy is happy to get away from the horrible Mississippi town of No-Bob since her parents deserted her there, but she must use her wits to stay away when her father returns and wants to take her back.

Yankee Girl - Mary Ann Rodman
(374-386617) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 550, ESL level: 3
Newly transplanted Alice is torn between her desire to be popular in her new Mississippi school and her inkling to befriend the one lonely African American girl in the class.

Famous Citizens:

Ruby Bridges
Ruby Bridges, born in Tylertown, Mississippi, was the first African American child to attend an all-White school in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960. Because of protests from the parents of other children at William Frantz Elementary School, Ruby had to be escorted to school by U.S. Marshals, and at first, all of the teachers at the school refused to teach her. Ruby's courage was commemorated in Norman Rockwell's painting The Problem We All Live With.

Jim Henson
Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Jim Henson began playing with puppets early in his life. His first televised puppet show came in 1954. In 1957, he made an appearance on The Tonight Show and first introduced Kermit the Frog. His biggest break came in 1969, when Public Broadcasting asked him to do the puppets for a new children's show named Sesame Street. He later created The Muppet Show, which allowed his puppets to appear to a more adult audience, as well as making a number of movies.

James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones was born Todd Jones in 1931 in Arkabutla, Mississppi, but moved to Michigan as a young boy and was raised by his mother's parents. Best known for his incredible voice, he had a stutter as a child, and took acting lessons to help overcome it. Although he has acted in several movies, it is as the voices of Darth Vader in Star Wars and as Mustapha in The Lion King that he may be best recognized.

Tennessee Williams
Born in Columbus, Mississippi, Thomas L. "Tennessee" Williams became of America's best known playwrights, famous for his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie.

Oprah Winfrey
Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey was raised on a Mississippi farm by her grandmother. By the age of 19, she had her first job as a reporter for a radio station in Nashville, and then moved on to television in Baltimore. She is best known for her Oprah Winfrey Show, which began in 1986. Today she continues her television show, and also publishes a magazine, and heads numerous philanthropic and civic activities.

Capital: Jackson
Entered Union: December 10, 1817
Population: 2,994,079
Area 48,430
Bird Mockingbird
Flower Magnolia
Nickname: Magnolia State
Governor Phil Bryant

Places to Visit in Mississippi: (Click the links to learn more.)

Beauvoir - Biloxi
Beauvoir is the retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and was constructed in 1848. The property also contains the Presidential Library of Jefferson Davis, a Confederate Museum, Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, and a theatre. Beauvoir was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina but has reopened after restoration.

Delta Blues Museum - Clarksdale
Located in an old Railroad Depot, this museum provides exhibits on the culture and people of blues music including such greats as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker.

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians - Natchez
This site marks the political and religious capital of the Natchez Indians of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and features three platform burial mounds, a ceremonial plaza and artifacts excavated from the site

Vicksburg National Military Park - Vicksburg
This site commemorates one of the most decisive battles of the American Civil War, the Vicksburg Campaign. The battlefield includes over 1,000 historic markers and monuments, 20 miles of reconstructed earthworks, an antebellum home, the restored Union gunboat the USS Cairo, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery.