Mississippi is located in the southeastern continental United States. If you love a slow pace of living, then Mississippi is the place for you. It’s got southern charm, hospitality, and plenty of comfort food to indulge in regularly. According to the latest census conducted in 2020, the state has 2,961,279 residents, making it the 35th most populated area in the country. The most populous metropolitan area in the state is Jackson, and it is also the capital and largest city. The Mississippi River continues to be an economic pillar and a busy commercial waterway.
Mississippi is known as the birthplace of bluegrass music, catfish, magnolias, and its general southern allure. It counts fishing, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture as among the biggest industries that keep its economy afloat. The state got its name from the Chippewa Indians, in whose language the term Mississippi means “large river.”
In the Beginning
Mississippi is the 20th state that joined the Union in 1817. Native American tribes, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez, were the area’s early inhabitants. Spanish explorers set foot in the area in 1540, but the Frenchmen established the first permanent settlement in 1699. The state seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederacy as one of the original seven Confederate States as most of the plantation owners supported the institution of slavery. Back then, the state was one of the biggest cotton producers in the Continental USA, and plantation owners freely used slave labor.
The state was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870. The Gulf of Mexico is at its southernmost border, with the state of Tennessee to its north. Alabama is at its eastern front while Louisiana is at the southwest and the state of Alabama is to its northwest. The western boundary is mainly defined by the Mississippi River, the second-largest river in the USA, next to the Missouri River. It is the 32nd largest state in terms of area, with 48,431.78 square miles or 125,438 square kilometers.
Civil Rights Flashpoint
After the abolition of slavery, Mississippians of that time persisted in the old beliefs, and racial discrimination endured. As a result, the state again became one of the flashpoints in the Civil Rights movement. The Ku Klux Klan was quite active in the area. It was among the protagonists in the Freedom Summer murders of three African-American activists who were working to register Black voters.
The Magnolia State and Bayou State
Mississippi has several state names. The most popular is the Magnolia State since the area is renowned for its magnolia trees. It is also known as the Bayou State as the area also has slow-moving streams that cut through the lowlands and marshes along the Mississippi River and drain to the Gulf Coast.
Alternative State Names
Other people refer to Mississippi as the Eagle State because of the presence of the American Bald Eagle clasping an olive branch and arrows in its talons in the Mississippi Coat of Arms. The state is also known as the Mud-Cat State because of the large catfish population in the Mississippi River. Catfish is one of the staples in Mississippian cooking.
Other Notable State Monikers
Mississippi is also called the Hospitality State because it is a melting pot of cultures. Although the state has the lowest per capita income, opportunities constantly abound in the area, and immigrants from within the country and outside the USA can easily establish a foothold in the state. Another notable moniker for Mississippi is the Groundhog State. It stems from the practice of early German settlers in Punxsutawney using a groundhog as their way to predict the weather.
Mississippi is a melting pot of cultures, and it has a selection of multicultural food items that are sure to stave hunger pangs. Visit any restaurant, and they’re sure to have homestyle cooking on the menu.
Among the most popular food that Mississippians are proud of is the po’boy. While Louisiana claims to have invented the sandwich, Mississippians took it one step further by including deep-fried seafood as the protein of choice. For those unfamiliar with po’boys, it’s a sandwich of French bread filled with protein, tomato, and lettuce, plus any other secret sauces or toppings of the food establishment.
Soul Food is Good Food
If you’re looking for down-home cooking, you must try the Mississippian soul food staples. Soul food combines deep-fried chicken, fried okra, collard greens, catfish, cornbread, biscuits, and gravy. If that doesn’t get your mouth watering already, barbecue is also one of the best staples in the state. You can ask for pulled pork, ribs, and BBQ chicken from different restaurants and have your fill. You can have them ala carte or as a sandwich.
Seafood is also a huge offering in the state, where you can have the famed catfish, oysters, shrimp, and other fresh seafood from the Gulf cooked in different ways. Sprinkle with the state’s favorite comeback sauce, and you’re in for a culinary treat. Fill up with the Mississippi mud pie for dessert and enjoy the velvety taste of chocolate on chocolate.
Memorial Day Origins
Columbus, Mississippi’s Friendship Cemetery was the site where most historians believe the origins of Memorial Day came from. The ladies of Columbus decorated the tombs of both Confederate and Union soldiers with bouquets and garlands of flowers on April 25, 1866, a year after the end of the American Civil War. The kind gesture spread, and from then on, celebrating the recognition of the war dead became an annual ritual.
Home of Barq’s Root Beer
Edward Adolf Barq, Sr. invented Barq’s Root Beer in an unassuming shack on Keller Avenue in Biloxi in 1898. The drink became the number one beverage until The Coca-Cola Company acquired it in 1995 and continues to produce the beverage to this day. The brand’s offbeat charm has continued to attract customers.
Original Coca-Cola Bottling Site
The beverage giant was initially bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1894. The original site was at Biedenharn Candy Company, using Hutchinson bottles which were quite different from the bottles that most people are familiar with. The original proprietor who bottled the soft drink was Joseph A. Biedenharn, an American confectioner and businessman.
Elvis Presley’s Birthplace
Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, was born in Tupelo on January 8, 1935. He and his family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, when he was 13 years old, and he started his legendary career there. He was born to Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love in a 2-room shotgun house which has been preserved. His twin brother, Jesse, was delivered stillborn about 35 minutes before him.
During a hunting expedition on November 14, 1902, in Onward, Mississippi, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a trapped bear which his assistant Holt Collier trapped and tied to a willow tree. President Roosevelt refused to shoot it, deeming it unsportsmanlike. The story spread like wildfire through newspaper articles, and Brooklyn candy store owner Morris Mitchtom and his wife created a stuffed bear in honor of the President, calling it Teddy’s Bear. Mitchtom mass-produced the toy bear upon the President’s approval, leading to the establishment of the Ideal Toy Company.
One of the oldest games in the USA is Choctaw stickball. This is a game also known as Kapucha Toli, which uses two sticks or kapuchas and a small leather ball or towa. They have to be picked and scored on a goal called fabvssa. The playing field is about the size of an American football field. Several local leagues are organized regularly for kids, youth, and adults.
A Hotbed for Football Players
Mississippi has produced more NFL talent per capita than other states. A recent study confirmed that Mississippi has 26.6 football players per 100,000 people. Notable names include Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Payton Manning, Archie Manning, DK Metcalf, and Steve McNair. They all have legendary careers, and most of them are in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Mississippian NBA Players
The state also has produced several notable basketball players. Monta Ellis and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson) are two prolific scoring guards who made a name in the league. Forwards Danny Manning and Antonio McDyess also are from the state, as well as Rodney Hood and Mo Williams, long-tenured veteran guards. Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker was also raised in Moss Point, Mississippi.
Mississippi is considered one of the favorite hunting grounds for white-tailed deer. Most hunters average getting two deer, and other fauna such as quail, wild turkey, raccoon, rabbit, and waterfowl also abound in the state. According to Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks records, about 300,000 hunting license holders in the state are legally mandated to report their harvest.
Mississippi is one of the states that experience an increased number of tornadoes, averaging 35.8 per annum. According to the USA Today Network, Mississippi ranked first in terms of tornadoes by square mile of land area. The tornado peak season happens during the months of March, April, and May, but November is also a month to watch for, according to the National Weather Service.
Lowest Per Capita
The state has the lowest per capita income in the USA, with a median income pegged at $25,444 or approximately $2,120 per month. The minimum salary rate in the state is $7.25 per hour, which is the same as the federal minimum wage. This contributes to the low quality of life in the state.
When you hear, “Thank God for Mississippi!” it is considered a backhanded compliment because the adage is used in various federal ranking metrics. Unfortunately, Mississippi is typically near or at the bottom of such rankings, particularly regarding education, overall health, life expectancy, poverty rate, and quality of life.