Mississippi is currently celebrating her Bicentennial of statehood and the Mississippi Library Commission has put together Bicentennial Bingo. Being a native Mississippian, I’ve pretty much won at Bicentennial Bingo. Go me! But, as a native Mississippian, I can help you should you decide to visit during our Bicentennial year, or at any other time. Mississippians love exploring their home state and I am no exception!
This will be my introduction blog post, with subsequent posts to follow. I already tried working on just the museum section and realized this all needed to be broken down into more readable posts instead of a giant novel. So, in this first post, let’s get a basic feel for Mississippi and an idea on Bicentennial Bingo.
Mississippi became a territory on 7. April, 1798 with portions ceded from the former British Colonies of Georgia and South Carolina respectively. We joined the Union and officially became a state on 10. December 1817. We left the Union on 9. January 1861 because we seceded and joined the Confederate States of America. We later re-joined the Union on 23. February 1870. But, we’re still going to celebrate 200 years of statehood and apparently forget the nine years where we weren’t actually a state. Natchez, Mississippi just celebrated its Tricentennial last year (1716 – 2016); as they didn’t count those nine years either. I’m actually sad that I missed everything to do with their Tricentennial. They were even going to have a delegate from France there in August (which was when they were established as a fort back in 1716) and I really, really wanted to be there for that.
Mississippi, the state, is named after the vast river that runs from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the chief river of the largest drainage system on the North American continent, and my state’s entire western main edge is bordered by this river. Mississippi comes from the French, Messipi, which is a rendering from the original Ojibwean word, Misi-ziibi, which means Great River. So, it is the Great River River, in essence, and we are the Great River State. The lower portion of The Mississippi is very wide and rather dangerous compared to its beginnings in the north. Without this river, Natchez wouldn’t have been celebrating their Tricentennial last year. The river played a huge part in how Mississippi grew as a territory and as a state.
Our first peoples were several Indigenous tribes including The Plaquemine and Middle Mississippian cultures, The Woodland Cultures, The Natchez, The Choctaw, The Chickasaw, The Yazoo, The Biloxi, The Houma, The Ofo, The Tunica, & The Quapaw.
The Colonial era saw Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto trekking up the Mississippi River in 1540 and French Colonials setting up bases along the Gulf Coast in 1699. The European populated area’s along the river and coast would change hands between the French and the Spanish until finally being ruled by the British just before the American Revolution, in which case, the lands then belonged to the newly formed United States. Much of the interior of the state wouldn’t be lived in by European descendants until the middle and latter portions of the nineteenth century.
The state population at the time of the last census count in 2015 was 2,992,333 people; compared to 7,600 during the territories’ first census taken in 1800. Mississippi is very rural and lowly populated compared to other places in the US. By comparison, New York State has a population of 19,795,791 during their last census in 2015. Our state capitol of Jackson, which is also our largest and most populated city, has a population of 172,638 during its last census in 2013. New York City has a population of 8.55 million. Los Angeles, 4.3 million. Chicago, 2.72 million.
Even cities in neighbouring states far outrank us in population. My own city, which is a very large city by Mississippi standards only has a population count of 47,016.
- Mobile, Alabama – 194,288
- Birmingham, Alabama – 212,461
- New Orleans, Louisiana – 389,617
- Atlanta, Georgia – 463,878
- Memphis, Tennessee – 656,861
The largest cities in the state are as follows, with only one place having 100k+ in population:
- Jackson – 172,638
- Gulfport – 71,856
- Southhaven – 51,824
- Hattiesburg – 47,016
- Biloxi – 45,637
- Meridian – 39,661
- Greenville – 32,156
- Horn Lake – 26,915
- Starkville – 25,366
- Vicksburg – 23,131
- Laurel – 18,837
- Natchez – 15,269
Our demographics, state-wide, are predominantly Caucasian, followed closely by African American, which their population is in the highest proportion to any other state in the US. There are also Latin Americans, Asian Americans, Vietnamese, Chinese, French Creole, Hindu’s, Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists, and of course Indigenous American, predominantly The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The top ten spoken languages in the state are English, French, Spanish, German, Choctaw, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Italian, and Arabic.
We have a humid subtropical climate with a lot of precipitation in the form of rain. We see long summers and very short and mild winters with very little snowfall in the northern and middle portions of the state. We also have a tornado’s in all portions of the state, hurricanes in the southern, and we do have alligators.
Our state flag is currently a big debate and I can’t wait until we change it, but there is a state flag since the 1890s. Our state motto is Virtute et Armis, which means By Valour and Arms. We are predominantly known as The Magnolia State or The Hospitality State. The state slogans are things such as ‘Feels Like Coming Home‘ and ‘The South’s Warmest Welcome‘. Our state symbols are as follows:
- Magnolia – state flower
- Magnolia – state tree
- Mockingbird – state bird
- Wood Duck – state water fowl
- Largemouth Bass – state fish
- Honeybee – state insect
- Oyster Shell – state shell
- Bottlenosed Dolphin – state mammal
- Prehistoric Whale – state fossil
- Milk – state beverage
- Petrified Wood – state stone
Personally, while I do like the Magnolia grandiflora, I wish it wasn’t both our state tree and our state flower. I detest mockingbirds. I don’t want people to kill them, but they are mean and I don’t like them and wish they weren’t our state bird; one which we share with several other states. The dolphin is actually listed as our water mammal, but since we don’t have any other type (ya know… land), I just said mammal, though I wish we also had a land mammal. It could be the cougar. Milk is not because we are all sitting around drinking it, but because there are a lot of dairy farms here. The whale is because its bones were discovered while a man was plowing his field in the delta.
If you visit the coast, you’ll see why oyster shell made it onto our list of state symbols. There’s a large industry in oyster farming and there’s so many shells, they just crush them up and use them in parking lots as gravel paving. The petrified wood I will explain more about in the following museums blog post.
Bicentennial Bingo. I think it’s a great idea and hitting all the blocks would give one a very well-rounded immersion into every aspect of the state. The website for this is interactive, as you can click on a square and it will give you more information, which can be found here. However, I thought I would give a basic rundown of the things that I have accomplished on the list and denote which items that I highly recommend, in case you are planning a visit to Mississippi. Which you totally should. Plus some things aren’t really listed on the websites that are linked to the game board, (specifically the museums, as they only list the top ones) so I feel that you would be lacking in your information.
There is a lot to like and dislike about Mississippi whether historically or currently. But it is my home. Though I may not love everything about my home state, I do love my home state, and as there are things planned for the Bicentennial, I would like to experience as much of it as I am able.
Now, I have pretty strong feelings against our Mississippi state government and the Republicans that are enthroned there, as I’m sure is true for a lot of Mississippians and non Mississippians alike. However, this has nothing to do with them or their jaded views. And while there are things pertaining to our dark past, like slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights which most certainly should be included, there are also a lot of things that are fun and light and all of it, as shown here in the Bicentennial Bingo, encompass all that has shaped Mississippi as a state over these past 200 years. Nothing has been left out, which I feel is very worthy.
So, this will conclude my basic overview of the state of Mississippi. Click here to read my post on the Bicentennial Bingo square, Visit A Museum.
[*Disclaimer* Saying that you’ll never go because of this or that doesn’t hurt anyone that you might intend it to; as in elected officials who a lot of people living in Mississippi don’t agree with, and really only hurts others who don’t deserve it as well as hurting you from being able to participate in some very cool things. It’s like the person who complains about a food, but has never tried it. It’s tacky. Don’t be that person. If you don’t wish to visit Mississippi, that is fine, just keep any negative comments to yourself and at the very least do yourself a favour and actually learn about the state. Education is key. If you want to badmouth something, at least know what you’ll be badmouthing.]