Native Americans[]

Mississippi was part of the Mississippian culture in the early part of the 2nd millennium AD; descendant Native American tribes include the Chickasaw and Choctaw. Other tribes who inhabited the territory of Mississippi (and gave their names to local towns) include the Natchez, the Yazoo, and the Biloxi.

The first expedition into the territory this became Mississippi was that of Hernando de Soto, who passed through in 1540. However, the first settlement was that of Ocean Springs (or Old Biloxi), settled by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699. In 1716, Natchez was founded on the Mississippi River (as Fort Rosalie); it became the dominant town and trading post of the area. After spending some time under Spanish, British, and French nominal jurisdiction, the Mississippi area was deeded to the United States after the French and Indian War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.


Historical populations

1800 7,600
1810 31,306
1820 75,448
1830 136,621
1840 375,651
1850 606,526
1860 791,305
1870 827,922
1880 1,131,597
1890 1,289,600
1900 1,551,270
1910 1,797,114
1920 1,790,618
1930 2,009,821
1940 2,183,796
1950 2,178,914
1960 2,178,141
1970 2,216,912
1980 2,520,638
1990 2,573,216
2000 2,844,658
  • The 2000 Census reported Mississippi's population as 2,844,658 [1]. 2004 estimates show the population as having risen to 2,902,966. [2]

Territory and Statehood[]

The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina; it was later twice expanded to include disputed territory claimed by both the U.S. and Spain. Land was purchased (generally through unequal treaties) from Native American tribes from 1800 to about 1830.

Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union, on December 10, 1817.


When cotton was king during the 1850s, Mississippi plantation owners—especially those of the Delta and Black Belt regions—became increasingly wealthy due to the high fertility of the soil and the high price of cotton on the international market. The severe wealth imbalances and the necessity of large-scale slave populations to sustain such income played a heavy role in both state politics and in the support for secession.

Civil War[]

See the main article Mississippi in the Civil War.

Mississippi was the second state to secede from the Union on January 9, 1861; it joined six other cotton states to form the Confederate States of America in February.


After the defeat of the Confederacy, President Andrew Johnson appointed a temporary government that repealed secession, ratified the 13th Amendment, and wrote new Black Codes giving the African American Freedmen an inferior legal status (and no votes.) The Black Codes never took effect, however, and the legal affairs of the Freedmen came under the control of sympathetic Freeman's Bureau representatives. Most of them were former Army officers; many stayed and became political and business leaders (and were called "Carpetbaggers". The Johnson governments quickly enacted "black codes", effectively giving freedmen only a limited set of second-class civil rights, and no voting rights. The state's black codes have been summarized: [1]

"Negroes must make annual contracts for their labor in writing; if they should run away from their tasks, they forfeited their wages for the year. Whenever it was required of them they must present licenses (in a town from the mayor; elsewhere from a member of the board of police of the beat) citing their places of residence and authorizing them to work. Fugitives from labor were to be arrested and carried back to their employers. Five dollars a head and mileage would be allowed such negro catchers. It was made a misdemeanor, punishable with fine or imprisonment, to persuade a freedman to leave his employer, or to feed the runaway. Minors were to be apprenticed, if males until they were twenty-one, if females until eighteen years of age. Such corporal punishment as a father would administer to a child might be inflicted upon apprentices by their masters. Vagrants were to be fined heavily, and if they could not pay the sum, they were to be hired out to service until the claim was satisfied. Negroes might not carry knives or firearms unless they were licensed so to do. It was an offense, to be punished by a fine of $50 and imprisonment for thirty days, to give or sell intoxicating liquors to a negro. When negroes could not pay the fines and costs after legal proceedings, they were to be hired at public outcry by the sheriff to the lowest bidder.…

The Black codes outraged northern opinion and apparently were never put into effect in any state. Congress responded in September 1865 by refusing to seat the newly elected delegation. In 1867 it put the state under U.S. Army rule. The military governor general Adelbert Ames deposed the civil government, enrolled black men as voters, and did not allow 1000 or so former Confederate leaders to vote or hold office. Ames had himself elected Senator and the state was readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870.

The rich planter James Lusk Alcorn was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1865 but, like all southerners, was not allowed to take a seat. He supported suffrage for Freedmen and endorsed the Fourteenth Amendment, as demanded by the Republicans in Congress. Alcorn became the leader of the Scalawags, who comprised about a third of the Republican party in the state, in coalition with carpetbaggers and Freedmen. He was elected by the Republicans as governor in 1869, serving, as Governor of Mississippi from 1870 to 1871. As a modernizer, he appointed many like-minded former Whigs, even if they were now Democrats. He strongly supported education, including public schools for blacks only, and a new college for them, now known as Alcorn State University. He maneuvered to make his ally Hiram Revels its president. Radical Republicans opposed Alcorn, angry at his patronage policy. One complained that Alcorn's policy was to see "the old civilization of the South modernized" rather than lead a total political, social and economic revolution. [Quoted in Eric Foner, Reconstruction (1988) p 298]

Alcorn resigned the governorship to become a U.S. Senator (1871–1877), replacing his ally Hiram Revels, the first African American senator. Senator Alcorn urged the removal of the political disabilities of whites southerners and rejected Radical Republican proposals to enforce social equality by federal legislation (Congressional Globe, 42 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 246-47); he denounced the federal cotton tax as robbery (Ibid., pp. 2730-33) and defended separate schools for both races in Mississippi. Although a former slaveholder, he characterized slavery as "a cancer upon the body of the Nation" and expressed the gratification which he and many other Southerners felt over its destruction (Ibid., p. 3424).

Alcorn led a furious political battle with Senator Adelbert Ames, the carpetbagger who led the other faction of the Republican party in Mississippi. The fight ripped apart the Republican party. In 1873 they both sought a decision by running for governor. Ames was supported by the Radicals and most African Americans, while Alcorn won the votes of conservative whites and most of the scalawags. Ames won by a vote of 69,870 to 50,490.

New South: 1877-1940[]

Mississippi was considered to typify the Deep South during the era of Jim Crow. However, at the same time, Mississippi became a center of rich, quintessentially American music traditions: gospel music, jazz music, blues, and rock and roll all were invented, promulgated, or heavily developed by Mississippi musicians. Mississippi was noted for its authors, including William Faulkner, William Alexander Percy, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, Stark Young, Eudora Welty and Anne Moody.

John Lomax recorded some of its rich musical history for the Library of Congress, including a very young Muddy Waters. He also recorded convict blues songs and field chants at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.


Mississippi was a center of the American Civil Rights Movement. Few white leaders in the state supported the effort to secure voting and other rights for African-Americans, the vocal opposition of many politicians and officials and the violent tactics of a few Ku Klux Klan members and sympathizers gave Mississippi a reputation as a reactionary state during the 1960s.

The state was the last to repeal prohibition and to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 1966 and 1995 respectively.

On August 17, 1969, Category 5 Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi coast killing 248 people and causing US$1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars).

Since 2000[]

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused even greater destruction across the entire 90 miles of Mississippi Gulf coast from Louisiana to Alabama.

Mississippi in recent years has been noted for its political conservatism, improved civil rights record, and increasing industrialization. In addition, a decision in the 1990s to permit riverboat gambling has led to economic gains for the state. However, an estimated $500,000 per day in tax revenue was lost following Hurricane Katrina's severe damage to several riverboat casinos in August 2005. Gambling towns in Mississippi include the Gulf coast towns of Gulfport and Biloxi and the river towns of Vicksburg and Tunica. Prior to Katrina, Mississippi was the second largest gambling state in the Union, after Nevadaand ahead of New Jersey.

See also[]


Secondary sources[]


  • Busbee, Westley F. Mississippi: A History (2005), good survey
  • Gonzales, Edmond, ed. A Mississippi Reader: Selected Articles from the Journal of Mississippi History (1980)
  • Krane, Dale and Stephen D. Shaffer. Mississippi Government & Politics: Modernizers versus Traditionalists (1992)
  • Loewen, James W. and Charles Sallis, eds. Mississippi: Conflict and Change (1974)
  • McLemore, Richard, ed. A History of Mississippi 2 vols. (1973)
  • Skates, John Ray. Mississippi: A Bicentennial History (1979)
  • Swain, Martha H. ed. Mississippi Women: Their Histories, Their Lives (2003). 17 short biographies

Specialized studies[]

Primary sources[]

  • Abbott, Dorothy. ed. Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Vol. 2: Nonfiction, (1986).
  • Bond, Bradley G. ed. Mississippi: A Documentary History (2003)
  • Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. (1968) memoir of Black girlhood

External links[]

  1. ^ Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, A History of the United States since the Civil War (1917) 1:128–129

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