Table of contents
Updated November 30, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
Tennessee Flag


Tennessee State Information

Capital: Nashville

Official Name: State of Tennessee

Organized as a territory/republic: May 26, 1790

Entered Union (rank): June 1, 1796 (16th) 

Present constitution adopted: 1870

State abbreviation/Postal code: TN

State Area Codes: 423, 615, 731, 865, 901, 931

Fun Facts About Tennessee

Nickname: The Volunteer State

Origin of name: The U.S. state of Tennessee gets its name from the Cherokee village of Tanasi, which was located along the Tennessee River in the eastern part of the state.

Motto: “Agriculture and Commerce.”

Slogan: "Tennessee–America at Its Best.”

State symbols: 

Flower: Passion Flower (1919); Iris (1933) 

Tree: Tulip Poplar (1947)

Animal: Racoon (1971)

Bird: Mockingbird (1933); Bobwhite Quail (1988)

Fish: Smallmouth Bass (2005); Channel Catfish (1988)

Vegetables: Not Applicable (State Fruit: Tomato)

Gem: Tennessee River Pearls (1979)

Colors: Red, White and Blue (1897)

Song: My Homeland, Tennessee,” (1925); “When It’s Iris Time In Tennessee” (1935); “My Tennessee” (1955); Tennessee Waltz (1965); “Rocky Top” (1982); “Tennessee” (1992); “The Pride of Tennessee,” (1996); “Smoky Mountain Rain” (2010); “Tennessee,” (2011); “The Tennessee in Me” (2023); “Copperhead Road” (2023)

Poem: “Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee,” by U.S. Navy Admiral William P. Lawrence (1973)

Grass: Not Applicable 

Fossil: Pterotrigonia Thoracica (1998)

Dinosaur: Answer (Year instituted) [If applicable]

Cookie: Not Applicable

Insect: Firefly (1975); Ladybeetle (1975); Honeybee (1990); Zeba Swallowtail Butterfly (1995)

Ballad: See State Songs

Bilingual song: Not Applicable

Question: Not Applicable


Governor: Bill Lee (to Jan. 2026) 

Lieut. Governor: Randy McNally (to Jan. 2026)

Secretary of State: Tre Hargett (to Jan. 2025)

General Treasurer: David H. Lillard, Jr.

Atty. General: Jonathan Skrmetti (to Sep. 2029)

U.S. Representatives: 9

Senators: Marsha Blackburn, R (to Jan. 2025); Bill Hagerty, R (to Jan. 2027)

Historical biographies of Congressional members

State website: https://www.tn.gov/


Residents: Tennesseans

Resident population: 7,051,339 (16th Largest State, 2022) 

10 largest cities (2020): Nashville, 689,248; Memphis, 631,326; Knoxville, 190594; Chattanooga, 181,624; Clarksville, 167,258; Murfreesboro 153,342; Franklin, 83,887; Johnson City, 70,576; Jackson, 68,169; Hendersonville, 62,040.

Race/Ethnicity: White (78.2%); Black or African American (17%); Hispanic or Latino (6.9%), Asian (2.2%), Two or More Races (2.0%), American Indian and Alaska Native (0.5%); Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.1%).

Religion: Protestant (73%); Catholic (6%); Mormonism (1%); Jehovah’s Witness (1%); Jewish (1%); Muslim (1%); Buddhist (1%); Unaffiliated (14%).

Sex: Female (51%); Male (49%)

Age: Under 18 (22.1%); 18-64 (60.9%); 65 and over (17%). Median Age: 38.8.


GDP: 367.78 billion dollars (16th in the U.S., 2022) 

Unemployment: 3.3% (2023)


Land area: 55,857.13 sq mi. (144,669.3 sq km)

Geographic center: Old Lascassas Pike, half a mile from the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.

Number of counties: 95

Largest county by population and area: Shelby County, 916,371 (2022); Shelby County 755 sq mi (1,955 sq km) 

State parks/recreation areas: 56

See additional census data

Tourism office

In the southeastern United States, Tennessee is a captivating state known for its rich history, vibrant music scene, and breathtaking natural beauty. Indeed, Tennessee became known as “The Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 due to the role volunteers played in the war and their military spirit.

From the iconic city of Nashville, renowned as the "Music City" and the heart of country music, to the blues and rock 'n' roll heritage of Memphis, Tennessee, it offers diverse musical experiences. Visitors can explore the legendary recording studios, attend live performances, and immerse themselves in the rhythm and soul of the state's music culture. Beyond its vibrant cities, Tennessee boasts stunning landscapes, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with scenic trails, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife.

The state's history is also showcased in its historic sites and landmarks, such as Civil War battlefields and the former home of President Andrew Jackson. Tennessee's warm hospitality, delicious Southern cuisine, and a calendar filled with festivals and events make it an inviting destination for travelers seeking an authentic and memorable experience in the heart of the American South.

Tennessee Geography

In the southeastern United States, Tennessee has a diverse geography and a rich cultural heritage. It is the 36th largest state, stretching 440 miles from east to west and 120 miles wide. Eight states border Tennessee: Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.

The state is divided into three Grand Divisions: Eastern, Middle, and Western Tennessee, each with its own distinct geography and lifestyle. There are six mainland regions in Tennessee:

Blue Ridge: Located on the eastern edge of Tennessee, it encompasses high mountains such as the Great Smoky Mountains, Chilhowee Mountains, and Snowbird Mountains. The average elevation in the Blue Ridge is around 5,000 feet above sea level, with Clingman's Dome being the highest point at 6,643 feet.

Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region: Stretching west from the Blue Ridge for 55 miles, this region features fertile valleys, including the Great Valley. It is home to urban areas such as Knoxville, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities.

Appalachian Plateau: West of the Appalachian Ridge, this region consists of flat-topped mountains and deep valleys with elevations ranging from 1,500 to 1,800 feet. Lookout Mountain, located in Chattanooga, offers panoramic views of seven states.

Highland Rim: Surrounding the Nashville Basin, this elevated plain is known as the Penny Royal Region. Rolling hills characterize it and are agriculturally significant.

Nashville Basin: Surrounded by the steep slopes of the Highland Rim, it is known for its rich and fertile farmlands. The state capital, Nashville, is situated in the northwestern portion of this region.

Gulf Coast Plain: Located west of the Highland Rim and Nashville Basin, this region is the predominant land area in the state. It extends from the Gulf of Mexico into Illinois and is known for its cotton production.

Tennessee is divided into three sections by rivers: the Tennessee River to the east and the Mississippi River to the west. The state features diverse natural attractions, including numerous caves, waterfalls like Fall Creek Falls, and forests covering approximately 52% of the state. Wildlife in Tennessee includes black bears, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.

The state has a moderate climate, with cool winters and warm summers. While snowfall is uncommon in most areas, higher elevations may experience snow. Tornadoes occur but are not frequent, with tornado season typically observed from March to May and mid-October to November. On average, Tennessee experiences around 15 tornadoes per year.

Tennessee is a state that combines natural beauty, cultural diversity, and a range of outdoor recreational opportunities, making it a vibrant and unique destination.

Tennessee People and Population

According to the 2020 U.S. Census data, Tennessee has a population composition where 78.2% identify as white, 17% as African American, 6.9% as Hispanic, 2.2% as Asian, and 0.5% as Native American.[1] The state has a predominantly European and Scots-Irish-descent population. Tennessee historically had a larger Black population before the Civil War due to slavery, but many individuals left the state after the war, seeking better opportunities elsewhere.

Tennessee is divided geographically into three divisions. The eastern division includes major urban areas such as Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Kingsport. The middle division is where the state capital, Nashville, is located. The western part of the state is home to Memphis.

The state's history includes the presence of Indigenous peoples, notably the Chickasaw in the west and the Cherokee in the east. However, in 1830, they were forced out of the area through the Indian Removal Act, and their numbers within the state significantly decreased. It's important to note that there are no Native American reservations in Tennessee, resulting in limited representation, recognition, and federal services for the region's Indigenous peoples.[2]

Tennessee Government

Tennessee adopted its first constitution upon joining the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. The state's constitution was subsequently revised in 1835 and again in 1870. Tennessee operates under a three-branch state government system.

The state's citizens elect the governor, who holds "supreme executive power” as the leader of the executive branch. The current governor of Tennessee is Bill Lee.

The legislative branch comprises a bicameral General Assembly, comprising the state Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of both chambers are elected by popular vote from their respective districts, and their primary responsibility is lawmaking. The House of Representatives has 99 members, while the Senate has 33 members. House members serve two-year terms, and Senate members serve four-year terms. The General Assembly convenes in the State Capitol Building, located in Nashville. The Senate elects its own Speaker of the House, who also serves as the Lieutenant Governor, currently held by Randy McNally. The General Assembly also has the right to overrule the governor’s veto with a majority vote. The Comptroller of the Treasury and State Treasurer are elected for two-year terms, and the Secretary of State is elected for a four-year term.

The judicial branch serves as a check on the powers of both the executive and legislative branches. It consists of the Tennessee Supreme Court, composed of five justices. The Supreme Court appoints the attorney general, including district attorneys and public defenders. Intermediate appellate courts include the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, which have 12 judges.

Local government in Tennessee is organized into 95 counties. Most counties (92 out of 95) have a County Commission as the legislative body, with a separately elected county executive. However, three counties — Davidson, Moore, and Trousdale — have consolidated their county seats. Each county in Tennessee elects its own officials. Tennessee has over 340 municipalities with local government structures and law enforcement.

Regarding political affiliation, Tennessee has been predominantly dominated by the Republican Party. However, Democratic strength is concentrated in major metropolitan areas such as Nashville and Memphis.

Tennessee Economy

According to the U.S. Census data from 2017–2021, Tennessee's median income is $58,516. The poverty rate stands at 13.6%.[3] Tennessee is a "Right to Work" state, which means there is little to no unionization. It is known for its low tax rates, making it one of the U.S. states with the lowest tax burden on its residents. Tennessee does not have a general income tax but a sales tax rate of 7%, the second highest in the nation. The total sales tax can range from 8.5% to 9.75% when including local sales taxes.[4] The state relies heavily on property taxes as a source of income, with rates varying based on property assessment.

Agriculture plays a significant role in Tennessee's economy. It ranks 8th in the number of farms, with 40% of the land used for agriculture. Cash crops and livestock are prevalent, with beef cattle, broilers, and poultry being the most common livestock. The state's major crops include soybeans, corn, hay, wheat, eggs, and snap beans. Tennessee is also the 7th largest producer of cotton. The Nashville Basin area is known for its fertile grasslands and is a popular equestrian region. The Tennessee Walking Horse is one of the most recognizable horse breeds in the state.

The automotive industry is a significant manufacturing sector in Tennessee. Nissan's assembly plant in Smyrna is the largest in North America, and General Motors has a facility in Spring Hill. Volkswagen also has a plant in Chattanooga. Additionally, Tennessee is a leading producer in the chemicals industry, manufacturing products such as industrial chemicals, paints, pharmaceuticals, plastic resins, and personal hygiene products. The mining industry in Tennessee focuses on crushed stone, construction materials, sand, and gravel, and the state is a national leader in zinc production. Coal is the primary fuel mineral, with substantial deposits in the Cumberland Mountains.

The area between Oak Ridge and Knoxville is known as the Tennessee Technology Corridor. It is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb was developed, and the Y-12 National Security Complex. This region has over 500 tech companies researching various fields, including material sciences and nuclear technology.

Tourism is a major economic center in Tennessee, as it is the 11th most visited state in the country. The state's natural scenery, such as the Great Smoky Mountains and the town of Gatlinburg, attracts many tourists. Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, is the most visited ticketed attraction in the state. Lookout Mountain offers spectacular views, and Memphis is famous for Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, and its vibrant music scene. Nashville, the center of the country music scene, features the Grand Ole Opry. Lynchburg is home to the Jack Daniel Distillery. Additionally, Tennessee has several historical sites related to Native American history and the Civil War.

Tennessee Interesting Facts

Tennessee is a culturally diverse state with distinct cultural regions due to its grand divisions. The eastern part of the state is considered Southern Appalachian, known for its scenic landscapes, Appalachian folk music, and traditional crafts. The middle region is characterized as upland southern, which shares cultural similarities with other parts of the South. The western part, especially Memphis, is considered part of the Deep South, known for its blues and soul music heritage.


The state's musical heritage is widely celebrated, and Tennessee is often called the home of various music genres. Memphis, particularly Beale Street, is considered the epicenter of the blues, with numerous bars, live music venues, and festivals dedicated to this genre. Sun Records in Memphis played a crucial role in launching the careers of legendary artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison. Stax Records, also located in Memphis, became a prominent soul music label in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nashville, known as the Music City, became the center of country music and the recording industry. The Grand Ole Opry, the longest-running radio program in the United States, started in the 1930s and is still recorded live at the Opry House in Nashville. The city hosts various music festivals and is home to museums dedicated to preserving the state's rich musical heritage, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.


Tennessee is also renowned for its whiskey production, with 30 distilleries across the state. Lynchburg is home to the famous Jack Daniel's distillery, and Tullahoma houses the George Dickel Distillery, among many others. Whiskey has been essential to Tennessee's history, even before the Civil War. During that time, the Confederacy ordered distilleries to halt production to allocate resources to the troops.

After the war, distilleries quickly recovered and flourished, but they faced another prohibition era in 1910, a decade before the federal prohibition. This period led to the rise of moonshine production. Tennesseans don’t label their whiskey as bourbon, and whiskey distilled in the state has its own distinct regulations, including the requirement of the Lincoln County Process, in which the whiskey is steeped in maple charcoal before aging in new charred barrels. Benjamin Prichard's is the only whiskey labeled as Tennessee Whiskey without using the Lincoln County Process.


The state's food culture is also noteworthy. Barbecue is a highly competitive and regionally inspired cuisine, with Memphis being famous for its dry-rubbed ribs slow-cooked over hickory wood. Conversely, Nashville is renowned for its hot chicken sandwich, a spicy and crispy delight served with white bread and pickles. Moon Pies, a Chattanooga creation in 1917, are famous throughout the South. These treats consist of two Graham crackers filled with marshmallows and dipped in chocolate. Mountain Dew was initially created as a mixer for whiskey in the 1940s, has its roots in Tennessee, and is still produced in Knoxville, although its recipe has changed.

Tennessee History

Tennessee has a long and complex history. It has played a significant role in the history of the United States since its admittance to the Union, dealing with territorial advance, forceful removal of the Native Americans, slavery, and the Civil War.

Pre-Colonial History

Native Americans first entered the region roughly 12,000 years ago, at the end of the Last Glacial Period. Archeological evidence has broken up the time frame into distinct phases, such as the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. In the later period, there was rapid development and organization of chiefdoms, with the construction of ceremonial structures and larger gatherings of people.

Colonial History

In the early 16th century, the Spanish began to explore and claim territories. In 1540–1541, Hernando de Soto, a Spanish conquistador, led an expedition into the region as he searched for the Seven Cities of Gold and other riches. He encountered the tribes of Muscogee Creek, Yuchi, and the Shawnee. Other explorers to the area included Tristan de Lucka in 1559 and Juan Pardo in 1566–1567.

At the beginning of the 18th century, most of the natives in Tennessee had disappeared, likely killed by diseases introduced by the Spanish explorers. The Cherokee began migrating to Tennessee from Virginia, escaping diseases and the English and French western expansion. The Chickasaw remained in the west and middle parts of the state.

In 1673, a French expedition led by the missionaries Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored the Mississippi River and became the first Europeans to map the Mississippi Valley. In 1682, explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, constructed Fort Prudhomme on the Chickasaw Bluffs in West Tennessee. 

In 1714, Charles Charleville established a small fort named Fort Lick near the Cumberland River, where he traded furs with the local native tribes. This would eventually become the modern city of Nashville. In 1739, the French established Fort Assumption on the Mississippi River, present-day Memphis. This was used as a base to fight against the Chickasaw.

After the French and Indian War in 1763, relations between the Cherokee and the British began to diminish, causing skirmishes and violent attacks on the settlements of the encroaching settlers. Great Britain issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which forbade new settlements from being built west of the Appalachian Mountains to help ease conflicts between the natives and settlers. However, European settlers were already arriving in northeastern Tennessee by that time. Many were English and Scotch-Irish. Outside of the boundaries of Great Britain, these settlers formed the Watauga Association in 1772, a semi-autonomous representative government in what is now Elizabethton. During the American Revolution, this would change into the Washington District. In 1775, Daniel Boone went from Fort Chriswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap. This would become Wilderness Road, the principal route through Tennessee into Kentucky and the West.

During the American Revolution, after a series of skirmishes with the Chickamauga, a Cherokee fraction loyal to the British attacked Fort Watauga in 1776. In 1779, Nashborough was founded near Fort Lick, and more people settled there. Settlers signed the Cumberland Compact, which created a colony called the Cumberland Association. This city would eventually become present-day Nashville as it grew in population. 

At the end of the American Revolution, three of the Washington District counties separated from North Carolina in 1784, becoming the State of Franklin. They tried to join the union but failed and rejoined North Carolina. The area was later ceded to the federal government in 1790 and then organized into the Southwest Territory, which made it easier to petition for statehood. The territory needed to reach a population of at least 60,000, and in the first U.S. census of 1790, the population was 35,691, including 3,417 slaves.

In 1795, a census was conducted of the population, and it totaled 77,263, including 10,613 slaves. In January of 1796, they began drafting their new state constitution. On March 28, 1796, John Sevier was announced as the state’s first governor, and Tennessee was admitted to the union on June 1, 1796, as the 16th state and the first to be created from a federal territory. 

Pre-Civil War History

During the War of 1812, 3,500 Tennesseans answered a recruitment call by the state’s General Assembly. They were led by Andrew Jackson, who would someday serve as the seventh president of the United States, and led his troops to victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The enthusiasm of the Tennessean volunteers earned the state its nickname, “The Volunteer State.”

The United States continued pushing its westward land grabs and negotiated with the Cherokee and Chickasaw. In 1818, Andrew Jackson and Kentucky Governor Issac Shelby negotiated with the Chickasaw to purchase land between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers to the United States. This included present-day West Tennessee; the deal became known as “Jackson’s Purchase.” In 1838-39, Cherokees were forcibly removed from southeastern Tennessee and their capital, Red Clay Council Grounds, into what was designated as Indian Territory and present-day Oklahoma. This became known as the Trail of Tears, where over 4,000 people died.

In the fertile lands of areas like the Cumberland Plateau, large plantation complexes developed in West Tennessee, and the rampant use of slave labor. Cotton grew well in the state’s fertile areas, as well as crops and tobacco. In East Tennessee, the mountainous regions didn’t allow large labor organizations, and slavery was far less common. In the East, abolition movements and anti-slavery publications, such as the Manumission Intelligencier, were published by Elihu Embree in 1819.

Tennessee’s role during the Civil War was significant and complex. Tennessee residents were divided into loyalties to the Union and the Confederacy. Most Tennesseans wanted to maintain their slavery-based economies, but some were skeptical of secession. Eastern Tennesseans favored staying within the Union. In 1860, slavery accounted for 25% of Tennesee’s population. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, secessionists, led by Governor Isham Harris, put to the vote whether Tennessee should secede from the Union, and it was rejected in February 1861. However, with the outbreak of bar and the attack on Fort Sumter in April, the state was the last to secede from the Union in June 1861. Many of the population supported the Union cause, leading to conflicts with communities and families and guerilla warfare, intensifying violence between communities.

Due to its strategic location, Tennessee would become a key battleground during the war. Controlling Tennessee meant gaining access to critical transportation routes. Both Union and Confederate forces occupied the state. Nashville, the state's capital, fell early in the war and became a substantial military base for the Union Army. Major military campaigns took place in the state, such as the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, the Battle of Stones River in December 1861, and the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1862. These battles and many others in the state had high casualties and profoundly impacted the war. The state would see more military engagements than any other state except Virginia.[5]

As the Union Army gained control over Tennessee, enslaved people gained freedom by escaping to the Union lines, and many joined the Union Army. Since the Union controlled most of the state, President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not include Tennessee on January 1, 1863, and the slaves were announced free by Andrew Jackson in October 1864. Tennesse ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery in every state in the Union. The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, and Tennessee became the first Confederate state to be readmitted to Congress on July 24, 1866.

Post-Civil War History 

Tenneese’s role during the Civil War would leave long-lasting scars in the state’s landscape and society, and it would see severe social, racial, and political unrest as the state moved on from the war. Tensions between former slaves and former Confederates persisted. During the Reconstruction Period, there were often violent outbreaks, such as the Memphis Massacre of 1866, where a shooting altercation between a white policeman and Black veterans of the Union army led to mobs of white residents rampaging through Black neighborhoods for three days, attacking and killing Black soldiers, civilians, and committing robbery and arson. Federal troops had to be called in to stop the violence, and 46 Black people were killed, 75 Black people were injured, hundreds were robbed, and every Black church and school burned down. Black people fled the community; by 1870, much of the community had left the city and the state.

Unlike other secessionist states, Tennessee ratified the Fourteenth Amendment before rejoining the Union and did not have a military governor to oversee Reconstruction. A group known as The Radical Republicans gained control of the government and appointed William G. Brownlow as governor. During his administration, he granted African American men the right to vote. As former Confederates began feeling more disenfranchised, they joined groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, founded in Pulaski, Tennesse. Brownlow took action against them. However, in 1870, Southern Democrats regained control of the state legislature and soon implemented Jim Crow laws, enforcing racial segregation and extreme violence toward African American communities. As the state continued to modernize, Chattanooga became the “Cotton Capital of the World” as one of the first industrialized cities in the South. The state’s economy, however, remained mostly agrarian and forced many freed slaves into sharecropping and working as agricultural laborers.

In the Appalachian Mountains, coalfields and mineral resources began to be mined. As Northern businessmen exploited those resources, the state turned to convict leasing to help with overcrowding prisons, and prisoners were leased to mining companies as strikebreakers, people who were forced to work when the miners were on strike. In 1891, there was an armed uprising in the Cumberland Mountains in Anderson County known as the Coal Creek War. Miners attacked the state prison stockades and mine properties and released hundreds of state convict laborers.

In the early 20th century, much of Tennessee witnessed significant changes. Between 1915 and 1830, Black Tennesseans left the state seeking better opportunities in the Northeast and Midwest in The Great Migration. At the same time, Tennesseans moved to larger cities such as Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis in hopes of more lucrative employment.

Tennessee played a significant role in the Temperance movement, becoming the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive ban on the sale, transportation, and production of alcohol. These laws, passed between 1907 and 1917, marked a turning point in the state's social and cultural landscape. Prohibition led to the rise of moonshine production, particularly in the mountainous regions of East Tennessee, where the illegal production of homemade alcohol thrived for decades.

As World War I broke out, Tennesseans volunteered, served their country again, and assisted in the war effort. Sgt. Alvin C. York, a native of Fentress County, gained national recognition for his heroic actions during World War I. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his single-handed capture of a German machine gun regiment.

Tennessee also played a crucial role in women's suffrage, becoming the 36th and final state needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Tennessee continued to find itself at the center of controversy as the famous Scopes Monkey Trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, reflecting the ongoing debate between creationism and evolution.

In 1926, Congress deemed the Great Smoky Mountains to be a national park, and it officially came into being in 1934. The park's dedication in 1940 solidified its status as one of the most visited national parks in the United States.

During the Great Depression, Tennessee faced economic hardships, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal brought a ray of hope. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established in 1933 to stimulate the region's economy. By providing electricity, jobs, flood control, and agricultural development, the TVA initiated a period of significant economic growth and modernization. Hydroelectric dams were built across the state, transforming the Tennessee River Valley and bringing newfound prosperity to the region. However, the building of these dams forced thousands of people to be moved from their homes and thousands of acres of farmland and relocated through eminent domain.

Modern History

Amidst World War II, Tennessee played a vital role in the war. Over 300,000 Tennesseans served in the armed forces. The state became a training ground, establishing training grounds like Camp Forrest and Cambell. The war impacted Tennessee’s economy, developing industrial and scientific centers to produce war-related industries. Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville began manufacturing airplane parts, explosives, and other essentials. This caused the state to see massive urbanization and economic growth. 

The state’s most significant and vital role in World War II was its contribution to the Manhattan Project. The city of Oak Ridge was built to facilitate the production of weapons-grade enriched uranium, which played a critical role in developing atomic bombs. The successful deployment of these bombs, including the infamous "Little Boy," ended the war. Oak Ridge, later home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, became a prominent scientific and technological research institution and remained so.[6]

The modern era in Tennessee witnessed significant social and political changes and was the location of many significant events during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. In 1955, Oak Ridge High School became the first integrated school in Tennessee, and the following year, Clinton High School was also integrated, and the National Guard was called in after the threat of violence. A series of sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville were organized by the Nashville Student Movement between February and May 1960, resulting in the desegregation of facilities in the city. However, tragedy struck the Civil Rights Movement when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis while there to support striking African American sanitation workers. 

The state has faced environmental controversy, such as the construction of Tellico Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Loudon County in the 1970s, over its impact on the surrounding wildlife, including the snail darter fish. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 and resulted in amendments to the Endangered Species Act.

On December 23, 2008, the state experienced the most extensive industrial waste spill in U.S. history at the Kingston Fossil Plant. Over 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry were accidentally released into the Emory and Clinch Rivers, resulting in a costly cleanup until 2015.

In 2006, the state constitution was amended to ban same-sex marriage. Still, this amendment was invalidated by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, but it remains a hotbed for sexual and gender minority rights. The state has implemented several laws to resist abortion access, and in 2018, it banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected. On August 25, 2022, abortion was completely banned in Tennessee.

People Also Ask…

If you are interested in more information about the state of Tennessee, then keep reading — we have compiled answers to the most common FAQs below. Plus, test your newfound state knowledge by taking our America Civil War Quiz or the National Park Quiz!

Is Tennessee a Good Place To Live?

Tennessee is an attractive place to live because it has a reasonably low cost of living and no income tax. It offers a significant music scene for country, blues, soul, rock, and roll lovers. It has a mild climate with several outdoor activities and natural landscapes.

What Is Tennessee Famous For?

Tennessee is known for its famous music scene, the Great Smokey Mountains, high-quality whiskey, historic battlefields during the American Civil War and Native American history. Famous people like Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton are from Tennessee, as are many other famous singers.

What Is the Most Visited Place in Tennessee?

The most visited place in Tennessee is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It receives thousands of visitors annually and is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It is the number-one attraction in the state.

See more on Tennessee:
Encyclopedia: Tennessee
Encyclopedia: Geography
Encyclopedia: Economy
Encyclopedia: Government
Encyclopedia: History
Monthly Temperature Extremes

Selected famous natives and residents:

The 50 States of America | U.S. State Information
Sources +

[1] United States Census Bureau QuickFacts. (n.d.). U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Tennessee. Census Bureau QuickFacts. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/TN

[2] About. (n.d.). Native American Indian Assoc. Of TN. https://naiatn.org/about/

[3] United States Census Bureau QuickFacts. (n.d.). U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Tennessee. Census Bureau QuickFacts. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/TN

[4] Due Dates and Tax Rates. (n.d.). https://www.tn.gov/revenue/taxes/sales-and-use-tax/due-dates-and-tax-rates.html

[5] Whiteaker, Larry H. (2018, March 1). Civil War | Tennessee Encyclopedia. Tennessee Encyclopedia. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/civil-war/

[6] Blake, Patricia. (2018, March 1). World War II | Tennessee Encyclopedia. Tennessee Encyclopedia. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/world-war-ii/ 

See also: