Mississippi, nicknamed the Magnolia State, is known for its Southern charm, abundant catfish, and as the birthplace of blues music.
The state got its name from the Mississippi River, which forms its western border. In 1540, Spanish explorers arrived in the region, while the French established the first permanent settlement in 1699. Mississippi was America’s top cotton producer in the early 19th century. In 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union, the second state to do so. It suffered huge casualties during the Civil War as Union and Confederate forces fought for control of the Mississippi River. The state was one of the battlegrounds for racial equality during the civil rights movement. In March 1961, nine Tougaloo College students staged a sit-in at the whites-only public library in Jackson, the state capital. Their arrest and trial spurred more civil disobedience.
Mississippi ranks first in farm-raised catfish in the U.S., with $230.7 million in sales annually. The Magnolia State’s agricultural production and processing industries combined represent 6.6% of its gross domestic product. Agriculture generates about $5.5 billion in revenues annually for the state. Apart from catfish, other top commodities include poultry, soybeans, and cotton lint.
The legendary B.B. King himself credited the Dockery Farms, a plantation in Cleveland, Mississippi, as the birthplace of blues music. It was once home to 3,000 people, including blues pioneers Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, Eddie House, and Chester Burnett (known as Howlin' Wolf). The plantation was the blues headquarters for three decades. But it was King, a guitarist and singer, who popularized the blues throughout the world. Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, he earned the nickname King of the Blues for hits such as "You Know I Love You," "Every Day I Have the Blues," and "Three O'Clock Blues."
Mississippi is one of the wettest states in the U.S., averaging 56 inches of rain annually. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina pummeled much of the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. The hurricane resulted in 1,833 fatalities, including 238 people in Mississippi. Overall damage was estimated at $161 billion, making Katrina the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Whether it’s housing or childcare or food, Mississippi is the cheapest state to live in the U.S. The state levies 0% to 5% in income tax. The top rate of 5% is slightly lower than the national average. However, the statewide sales tax of 7% is a tad above the national average.