Say the word “Mississippi”, and most people immediately think of stately homes, magnificent magnolia trees, the blues, and hot, sticky summers. But the Magnolia State is so much more, from its long history to its legendary Southern hospitality and its efforts to attract new industries with pro-business policies.
Located in the southern region of the United States. Mississippi is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, Louisiana to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The state has a total area of 46,923.3 square miles (121,530.79 square kilometers), making it the 32nd largest state in the country.
The state of Mississippi sits entirely on the Gulf Coastal Plain of North America. The state can be divided into five geographic regions: the Pine Belt, the Gulf Coastal Plain, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, the Pontotoc Ridge, the Black Prairie, and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Hills. The Gulf Coastal Plain is the largest region and covers the southern part of the state. It is characterized by flat terrain and sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain, also known as the Delta, is located in the northwestern part of the state and is known for its fertile soil and agricultural production. The Pontotoc Ridge is a hilly region located in the northeastern part of the state, while the Black Prairie is a region of rolling hills and fertile soil located in the central part of the state. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Hills are located in the northeastern part of the state and are characterized by rugged terrain and forests. It is home to Mississippi’s highest point, Woodland Mountain which stands 806 feet (245.27 meters) above sea level. in Tishomingo County.
Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The state receives an average of 50 inches of rainfall per year, with the highest amounts occurring in the southern part of the state. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a common occurrence in Mississippi, particularly along the Gulf Coast.
The state’s mild climate provides the area with abundant wildlife and plant species. Southern counties contain a variety of live oaks and pine forests. Further north, hardwoods,such as oak and hickory, share the landscape with a variety of fruit trees. The state tree, the majestic magnolia, as well as pecan trees, are sprinkled throughout the state. More than 50 percent of the state’s land area is covered by forests.
Mississippi People and Population
Mississippi is currently losing residents to other states, largely because of a lack of opportunities in the Magnolia State. For example, the state lost about 10,000 residents between 2021 and 2022. The state also ranks 32nd among the 50 states in population density, with 63.1 residents per square mile (24.4 per square kilometer).
Demographically, white alone, not Hispanic or Latino (56.0%) accounts for the largest population group, followed by Black residents alone (38.0%). Other groups in the state include two or more races (1.4%); Hispanic or Latino (3.5%); Asian alone (1.1%); Native American and Alaska Native alone (0.6%); and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander alone (0.1%)
Mississippi is arguably the most religious state in the United States. A total of 85% of Mississippians are members of a Christian congregation, and a full 89% say that religion plays and important part in their daily lives. These numbers come second to those in Alabama and Louisiana. And a Gallup poll indicated that Mississippians come second only to people from Utah in terms of weekly church attendance. Mississippi has a few other measures of religiosity in which it exceeds all other states. Mississippi has the nation's most churches per capita, and the country's largest bible producer is located in the state.
The full religious affiliation breakdown in the state includes Catholic (4%); Evangelical Protestant (41%); mainline Protestant (12%); historically Black Protestant (24%); Mormon (1%), Orthodox Christian (<1%); Jehovah’s Witness (<1%); other Christian (<1%); Jewish (<1%); Muslim (<%); Buddhist (<1%); Hindu (<1%); no religion (14%); and other faiths (1%).
Mississippi ranks below the national average in its immigrant population with only about two percent of the population being foreign-born. The top five countries supplying immigrants to the state are Mexico, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
A major challenge for the state is improving the quality of the educational system. Mississippi has the smallest share of college graduates of all 50 states and ranks 46th in the number of doctoral program graduates. The state also has the lowest literacy rate among the states. Such educational challenges in Mississippi make it difficult to attract and retain industries, particularly in high-tech fields.
The 20th state admitted to the Union, Mississippi has a three-branch government system consisting of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Each branch has its own responsibilities and powers.
The executive branch is headed by the governor, who is elected for a four-year term and who is charged with law enforcement. The current governor is Tate Reeves, a Republican who took office on January 14, 2020. Other executive branch officials are the following:
Lieutenant Governor: Delbert Hosemann (R)
Secretary of State: Michael Watson (R)
Attorney General: Lynn Fitch (R)
Treasurer: David McRae. (R)
State elections in Mississippi are held every four years in odd-numbered years. The governor and lieutenant governor may not serve more than two terms.
Mississippi has a Republican trifecta in which the Republican Party controls the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. The state also has a Republican triplex. in which the Republican Party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.
The Mississippi legislature is composed of the state Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has 52 members, and the House of Representatives has 122 members. As of 2023, the party breakdown for the Senate was 36 Republicans , 15 Democrats, and 1 other, while the House of Representatives had 77 Republicans, 40 Democrats, and 3 Independents (with 2 vacancies). The Mississippi lawmakers meet in the state capitol in Jackson. The building was completed in 1903 and has since undergone several renovations. It houses both the House of Representatives and the Senate. All branches of the government originally had offices in the capitol, but today only the legislative branch is headquartered there.
The Mississippi Supreme Court is the highest court in the state, and it has nine justices who are elected to 8-year terms and who meet in the capital city of Jackson. The justices are selected through nonpartisan elections, and they can serve a maximum of two terms. The chief justice is chosen by seniority and serves in that capacity as long as he or she is a Supreme Court justice. The Mississippi Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court, and it has 10 judges who are also elected to 8-year terms. The chancery courts, circuit courts, and county courts are the trial courts in Mississippi.
In 2022, Mississippi's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated to be $138.7 billion. The drivers of economic development in Mississippi are primarily the agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare industries.
Mississippi is one of the largest producers of cotton, soybeans, and rice in the country. The state is also a major producer of poultry, catfish, and timber. Manufacturing is important as well, with the state being home to several automobile manufacturing plants, including Nissan and Toyota. The healthcare industry includes several large hospitals and medical centers located throughout the state.
In 2023, the unemployment rate in Mississippi was estimated to be 3.2 percent, which tied the state for 27th among the 50 U.S. states. While this was slightly higher than the national average, it was a significant improvement from the state's unemployment rate in previous years.
While the COVID-19 pandemic caused severe disruption in the state’s economy, the economic outlook for Mississippi is positive. For example, the Mississippi Development Authority is a government agency that works to attract business to the state and to retain the businesses that already call Mississippi home. The state has a low cost of living and a favorable business climate, which makes it an attractive location for businesses looking to expand or relocate. Additionally, the state has made significant investments in infrastructure, including the expansion of highways and the development of new ports, which will help to support future economic growth.
While the overall prognosis for Mississippi’s economic growth is positive, there are factors that could hold back economic growth in the state. Chief among these is the lack of skilled workers and a reliance on low-wage industries.
Mississippi Interesting Facts
Mississippi has contributed an outsize portion to American music, literature, theater, and architecture. And the state continues to have an impact on all four.
A Birthplace of Blues
Although the exact origin of blues music is unknown, there's a good case to be made that it began in Mississippi. Music that was distinctly what we'd now call "blues" came about in the late 1800s or early 1900s in the Deep South. Blues combines traditional elements from African music, Black American work songs and spirituals, and to a lesser extent folk music. Due to a lack of records—before jazz took off and won global acclaim in the 1920s and 1930s, historians weren't interested in studying or recording art from the Black community—we'll probably never know for sure the first place the blues were performed. But, even if it wasn't played for the first time ever in Mississippi, the state has still had a major impact on the development of the genre. Performers in the Mississippi Delta established a lot of the touchstones of the genre, and great blues pioneer Howlin' Wolf grew up in this area. These blues forms would become highly influential in the creation of jazz, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll music. Today, the state is trying to create a historic trail connecting important sites in the history of the blues.
Literature and Theater
No one knows for sure why Mississippi gave birth to so many of the giants not only of American literature but also of world literature. But give birth, it did!
Growing up in the time of Jim Crow when public schools were segregated — and definitely NOT equal — African American author Richard Wright went on to write such acclaimed works as “Native Son,” “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”, and “Native Son”.
Perhaps the best-known and most celebrated Mississippi author was William Faulkner who was born in New Albany. His novels and short stories were set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, which was based on Lafayette County, where Faulkner spent most of his life. Faulkner hit the trifecta for literary awards: the Nobel Prize for Literature, a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award. Novels such as “The Sound and the Fury”, “Absalom, Absalom!”, and “Light in August” are required reading in most college literature courses. Faulkner also wrote a letter of encouragement to a young author in the state capital of Jackson named Eudora Welty.
The short story writer, novelist, and photographer went on to claim a Pulitzer Prize in her own right. Like Faulkner, Welty wrote about what she knew best — the South. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of the South.
Tennessee Williams, born in Columbus in 1911, was one of the best American playwrights. Works such as “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “Sweet Bird of Youth”, and “The Night of the Iguana”, continue to be performed throughout the world.
And Mississippi’s contributions to literature continue with authors such as Kathryn Stockett, John Grisham, Greg Iles, and Donna Tartt.
Natchez, Mississippi, is a popular tourist destination for people interested in the architecture and history of the Antebellum South. The town has dozens of famous mansions that are seen as ideal examples of Southern architecture, and all in all, it has a few hundred preserved historical sites. There are other preserved mansion sites in Oxford and Vicksburg, but the Natchez sites are arguably the most famous.
We have learned a lot about the accomplishments and challenges of the Magnolia State. Now we delve deeper into Mississippi’s history to learn the role that it has played in the pantheon of American history.
The pre-colonial history of Mississippi is rich and diverse, with evidence of human habitation dating back over 12,000 years. The area was home to several Indigenous Native American groups, including the Natchez, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Tunica, and Biloxi tribes. Each of these groups had their own unique culture and way of life.
The Natchez were a powerful tribe that inhabited the southern part of Mississippi. They were known for their complex social hierarchy, which included a ruling class of elite warriors and a large population of commoners. The Natchez were also skilled farmers and traders, and they had a sophisticated religious system that included human sacrifice.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes were both known for their hunting and fishing skills, as well as their expertise in agriculture. The Choctaw were particularly skilled at cultivating corn, beans, and squash, and they had a complex system of government that included a council of chiefs. The Chickasaw, on the other hand, were known for their fierce warriors and their ability to resist European colonization for many years.
The Tunica tribe was originally located in what is today northwest Mississippi and further west, but by the late 1600s, they were concentrated near the mouth of the Yazoo River, while the Biloxi tribe was concentrated near the Gulf Coast. They were skilled hunters and fishermen, and they had a rich cultural tradition that included music, dance, and storytelling.
First explored for Spain by Hernando de Soto, who discovered the Mississippi River in 1540, the region was later claimed by France. In 1699, a French group under Sieur d'Iberville established the first permanent settlement near present-day Ocean Springs.
Great Britain took over the area in 1763 after the French and Indian War, ceding it to the U.S. in 1783 after the Revolution. Spain did not relinquish its claims until 1798, and in 1810 the U.S. annexed West Florida from Spain, including what is now southern Mississippi.
Pre-Civil War History
Mississippi’s early economy was based on agriculture, particularly cotton, and relied heavily on slave labor. By 1860, Mississippi had the highest percentage of enslaved people of any state in the country, with nearly 55% of the population being enslaved.
In the years leading up to the Civil War, tensions between the North and South grew over the issue of slavery. Mississippi was a strong supporter of states’ rights and secession, and in January 1861, the state became the second to secede from the Union. Mississippi played a significant role in the Civil War, with many major battles taking place within its borders.
One of the most significant battles was the Battle of Vicksburg, which took place in 1863. Union forces, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, laid siege to the city for six weeks before the Confederate forces surrendered. The fall of Vicksburg gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
Throughout the war, Mississippi suffered greatly. The state’s economy was devastated, and many of its cities and towns were destroyed. The end of the war brought about significant changes in Mississippi, including the abolition of slavery and the beginning of Reconstruction.
Post-Civil War History
The Civil War disrupted the profitable (for slaveholders) economy, and much of the economic growth immediately after the war was attributable to freed slaves who cleared land for farming and development. They were able to work to own the land, and at its peak a majority of farms were owned by Black farmers. However, natural challenges, falling cotton prices, and racial enmity led to many of those farmers losing their farms by the 1930s and 1940s.
The Reconstruction Era, which lasted from 1865 to 1877, saw the federal government attempt to rebuild the South and ensure the rights of newly freed slaves. In Mississippi, this led to the establishment of a new state constitution in 1868, which granted African Americans the right to vote and hold office.
However, the Reconstruction Era was short-lived in Mississippi. In 1877, federal troops were withdrawn from the state, and white supremacists regained control of the government. This led to the establishment of Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation and discrimination.
The early 20th century saw significant racial violence in Mississippi. In 1906, a race riot in the town of Springfield resulted in the deaths of several African Americans. In 1919, a wave of racial violence swept across the state, with lynchings and other acts of violence targeting African Americans.
The Great Depression, which began in 1929, had a significant impact on Mississippi. The state was already one of the poorest in the country, and the economic downturn only made things worse. Many Mississippians were forced to leave the state in search of work. Only the entry into World War II brought Mississippi out of the Depression as the state geared up to help with the war effort.
The economic disparities and challenges in Mississippi contributed to making the state a hotbed of activity during the civil rights movement that began to take shape in the 1940s and 1950s. Mississippi was at the forefront of this struggle, with the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 and the Freedom Summer of 1964 being two of the most notable events.
Mississippi has also experienced significant economic challenges in recent years. The state has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and its economy has been heavily reliant on agriculture, which has been impacted by factors such as climate change and trade disputes.
Despite these challenges, Mississippi has also achieved notable successes in recent years. The state has made progress in improving its education system, with its high school graduation rate reaching an all-time high of 88.9 percent in 2022 and its college enrollment rate improving. Mississippi has also seen growth in industries such as manufacturing and health care.
For a little more than 100 years, from shortly after the state's founding through the Great Depression, cotton was the undisputed king of Mississippi's largely agrarian economy. Today, agriculture continues as a major segment of the state's economy. For almost four decades soybeans occupied the most acreage, while cotton remained the largest cash crop. In 2001, however, more acres of cotton were planted than soybeans, and Mississippi jumped to second in the nation in cotton production (exceeded only by Texas).
Another significant event in Mississippi's history was Hurricane Katrina which hit the state on August 29, 2005. The hurricane caused widespread devastation in the state, particularly in the coastal region, and resulted in the displacement of thousands of residents. The state's response to the disaster was widely criticized, and it took years for the affected areas to fully recover.
Once again in 2022, the state captured headlines around the world when the Associated Press and other news outlets reported that a leak in a pipe caused the municipal water system in Jackson to be shut down for weeks. Social media quickly took up the cause, showing a variety of stories about the crisis.
People Also Ask...
That’s everything you need to know about Mississippi, but how well do you know the other U.S. states and their histories? For the ultimate test, try out this challenge in which you answer questions about the Civil War: Infoplease's American Civil War Quiz.
People are also asking the following three questions about Mississippi.
What is Mississippi Known for?
In addition to its vibrant blues music, Mississippi is also known for its bluegrass music as well as Southern comfort food, particularly catfish. This fish is at home in the muddy rivers of the Mississippi Delta and is served in most restaurants around the state.
The state is also home to the famed Natchez Trace Parkway that winds its way through beautiful countryside between Natchez and Nashville. Following paths bison and Native Americans used centuries ago, the 444-mile (714.55-kilometer) parkway provides spectacular views into pristine wilderness throughout its route.
And no discussion of Mississippi would be complete without referring to its famed southern hospitality. Mississippians are genuinely glad you’ve come to their state and go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
Is Mississippi a Good Place to Live?
Mississippi has some of the lowest costs of living in the United States. With all the money you save on housing costs, you’ll have more to spend on all the Southern comfort food in local restaurants! And the legendary southern hospitality of Mississippians will help you feel right at home. Finally, the state’s natural beauty is legendary.
What is The State Income Tax in Mississippi?
Mississippi taxes residents’ incomes at a flat five percent. The state also levies a seven percent sales tax, and localities may charge an additional one percent sales tax on purchases. The total state and local tax burden in the state is 9.5 percent, placing Mississippi in 18th place among the states for tax burden.
Famous Mississippi Natives and Residents
Red Barber sportscaster;
Jimmy Buffett singer and songwriter;
Craig Claiborne columnist and restaurant critic;
Bo Diddley guitarist;
Charles Evers civil rights leader;
Medgar Evers civil rights leader;
William Faulkner novelist;
Brett Favre football player;
Shelby Foote historian;
Richard Ford novelist;
John Grisham novelist;
Beth Henley playwright and actress;
Jim Henson puppeteer;
James Earl Jones actor;
B. B. King guitarist;
Willie Morris writer;
Elvis Presley singer;
U.S. State Comparisons
Population & Economy
Historical Population Statistics, 1790–Present
Per Capita Personal Income
Minimum Wage Rates
Federal Government Expenditure
Percent of People in Poverty
Births and Birth Rates
Percentage of Uninsured by State
The 50 States of America | U.S. State Information Minnesota Missouri
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