Mississippi Delta, also known as the Yazoo-
Mississippi Delta, is
the distinctive northwest section of the
U.S. state of Mississippi
(and small portions of
Arkansas and Louisiana) which lies between the
Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The region has been called "The Most
Southern Place on Earth" ("Southern" in the sense of
"characteristic of its region, the American South"), because of its
unique racial, cultural, and economic history. It is 200 miles long
and 87 miles across at its widest point, encompassing circa 4,415,000
acres, or, some 7,000 square miles of alluvial floodplain.
Originally covered in hardwood forest across the bottomlands, it was
developed as one of the richest cotton-growing areas in the nation
American Civil War
American Civil War (1861–1865). The region attracted many
speculators who developed land along the riverfronts for cotton
plantations; they became wealthy planters dependent on the labor of
black slaves, who comprised the vast majority of the population in
these counties well before the Civil War, often twice the number of
As the riverfront areas were developed first and railroads were slow
to be constructed, even after the Civil War most of the bottomlands in
the Delta were undeveloped. Both black and white migrants flowed into
Mississippi, using their labor to clear land and sell timber in order
to buy land. By the end of the 19th century, black farmers made up
two-thirds of the independent farmers in the
Mississippi Delta. In
1890 the white-dominated state legislature passed a new state
constitution effectively disenfranchising most blacks in the state. In
the next three decades, most blacks lost their lands due to tight
credit and political oppression.
African Americans had to resort to
sharecropping and tenant farming to survive. Their political exclusion
was maintained by the whites until after the gains of the Civil Rights
Movement in the 1960s.
African Americans developed the musical forms of blues and jazz. The
majority of residents in several counties in the region are still
black, although more than 400,000
African Americans left the state
during the Great Migration in the first half of the 20th century,
moving to northern, midwestern, and western industrial cities.
As the agricultural economy does not support many jobs or businesses,
the region has had to work hard in order to diversify that economy.
Lumbering is important and new crops such as soybeans have been
cultivated in the area by the largest industrial farmers.
At times, the region has suffered heavy flooding from the Mississippi
River, notably in 1927 and 2011.
Agriculture and the Delta economy
3.2 Mechanization and migration
4 Political environment
6 Encompassed towns
Government and infrastructure
8.2 Community colleges
8.3 Primary and secondary schools
9 Media and publishing
11 See also
13 Further reading
The shared flood plain of the Yazoo and
Despite the name, this region is not part of the delta of the
Mississippi River. Rather, it is part of an alluvial plain, created by
regular flooding of the
Mississippi and Yazoo rivers over thousands of
years. The land is flat and contains some of the most fertile soil in
the world. It is two hundred miles long and seventy miles across at
its widest point, encompassing approximately 4,415,000 acres, or, some
7,000 square miles of alluvial floodplain. On the east, it is bounded
by bluffs extending beyond the Yazoo River.
It includes all or part of the following counties: Washington, Western
DeSoto, Humphreys, Carroll, Issaquena, Western Panola, Quitman,
Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Sunflower, Sharkey, Tate, Tunica,
Tallahatchie, Western Holmes, Western Yazoo, Western Grenada and
The shifting river delta at the mouth of the
Mississippi on the Gulf
Coast lies some 300 miles south of this area, and is referred to as
Mississippi River Delta. The two should not be confused.
From 1900 to 1930 planters recruited Chinese immigrants as field
hands, although the earliest Chinese were recorded in Bolivar County
in 1870. Most Chinese immigrants worked to leave the fields, becoming
merchants in the small rural towns. As these have declined, along with
other Delta residents ethnic Chinese have moved to cities or other
states. Their descendants represent most of the ethnic Asian
residents of the Delta recorded in censuses. While many Chinese have
left the Delta, their population has increased in the state.
Of the state's African American population, in the 21st century 34%
resides in the Delta, which has many black-majority state legislative
districts. Much of the Delta is included in Mississippi's 2nd
congressional district, represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson.
Agriculture and the Delta economy
For more than two centuries, agriculture has been the mainstay of the
Sugar cane and rice were introduced to the region by
European settlers from the
Caribbean in the 18th century. Sugar and
rice production were centered in southern Louisiana, and later in the
Early agriculture also included limited tobacco production in the
Natchez area and indigo in the lower Mississippi.
farmers, supported by extensive families, had begun the back-breaking
land clearing. Colonists tried to enslave the Native Americans, who
escaped. In the 18th century, the French, Spanish and English ended
Native American slavery, and imported enslaved Africans instead. In
the early years, African laborers brought critical knowledge and
techniques for the cultivation and processing of both rice and indigo.
Hundreds of thousands of Africans were captured, sold and transported
as slaves from West Africa to North America.
The invention of the cotton gin in the late 18th century made
profitable the cultivation of short-staple cotton. This type could be
grown in the upland areas of the South, leading to the rapid
development of King
Cotton throughout what became known as the Deep
South. The demand for labor drove the domestic slave trade, and more
than one million African-American slaves were forced by sales into the
South, taken in a forced migration from families in the Upper South.
After continued European-American settlement in the area,
Congressional passage of the
Indian Removal Act
Indian Removal Act of 1830 extinguished
Native American claims to these lands. The Five Civilized Tribes and
others were mostly removed west of the
Mississippi River, and
European-American settlement expanded at a rapid rate in Georgia,
Louisiana and Texas. In the areas of greatest
cotton cultivation, whites were far outnumbered by their slaves.
Many slaves were transported to Delta towns by riverboat from slave
markets in New Orleans, which became the fourth largest city in the
country by 1840. Other slaves were transported downriver from slave
markets at Memphis and Louisville. Still others were transported by
sea in the coastwise slave trade. By this time, slavery had long been
established as a racial caste.
African Americans for generations
worked the commodity plantations, which they made extremely
profitable. In the opinion of
Jefferson Davis and others later living
in Mississippi, Africans being held in slavery reflected the will of
Providence, as it led to their Christianizing and to the improvement
of their condition, compared to what it would have been had they
remained in Africa. According to Davis, the Africans "increased
from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian
By the early 19th century, cotton had become the Delta’s premier
crop, for which there was high international demand. Mills in New
England and New York also demanded cotton for their industry, and New
York City was closely tied to the cotton trade. Many southern planters
traveled so frequently there for business that they had favorite
hotels. From 1822 cotton-related exports comprised half of all exports
from the port of New York City. In 1861 Democratic mayor Fernando
Wood called for secession of New York City because of its close
business ties to the South. Eventually the city joined the state
in supporting the war, but immigrants resented having to fight when
the wealthy could buy their way out of military service.
Comparing cotton's preeminence then to that of oil today, Historian
Sven Beckert called the Delta "a kind of Saudi Arabia of the early
Demand for cotton remained high until well after the American Civil
War, even in an era of falling cotton prices. Though cotton planters
believed that the alluvial soils of the region would always renew, the
agricultural boom from the 1830s to the late 1850s caused extensive
soil exhaustion and erosion. Lacking agricultural knowledge, planters
continued to raise cotton the same way after the Civil War.
Plantations before the war were generally developed on ridges near the
rivers, which were used for transportation of products to market. Most
of the territory of
Mississippi was still considered wilderness,
needing substantial new population. These areas were covered in a
heavy dense growth of trees, bushes and vines.
Following the Civil War, 90 percent of the bottomlands in Mississippi
were still undeveloped. The state attracted thousands of migrants to
its frontier. They could trade their labor in clearing the land to
eventually purchase it from their sale of lumber. Tens of thousands of
new settlers, both black and white, were drawn to the area. By the end
of the century, two-thirds of the independent farmers in the
Mississippi Delta were black. But, the extended low price of cotton
had caused many to go deeply into debt, and gradually they had to sell
off their lands, as they had a harder time getting credit than did
white farmers. From 1910 to 1920, the first and second generations of
African Americans after slavery lost their stake in the land. They had
to resort to sharecropping and tenant farming to survive.
Sharecropping and tenant farming replaced the slave-dependent
plantation system. African-American families retained some autonomy,
rather than working on gangs of laborers. As many were illiterate,
they were often taken advantage of by the planters' accounting. The
number of lynchings of black men rose in the region at the time of
settling accounts, and researchers have also found a correlation of
lynchings to years that were poor economically for the region.
The sharecropping and tenant system, with each family making its own
decisions, inhibited the use of progressive agricultural techniques in
the region. In the late 19th century, the clearing and drainage of
wetlands, especially in
Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel, increased
lands available for tenant farming and sharecropping.
Planters needed workers and recruited Italians in the 19th century and
Chinese in the 20th to satisfy demand. The Chinese entered Mississippi
mostly from 1900 to 1930. They quickly moved out of field labor,
saving money as communities in order to establish themselves as
merchants, often in the small rural towns.
Mechanization and migration
During the 1920s and 1930s, in the aftermath of the increasing
mechanization of Delta farms that reduced the need for labor,
displaced whites and
African Americans began to leave the land and
move to towns and cities. Tens of thousands of black laborers left the
Jim Crow south for better opportunities in the North and Midwest in
the Great Migration, with many going straight north by railroad to
St. Louis and Chicago. It was not until the Great Depression
years of the 1930s and later that large-scale farm mechanization came
to the region. The mechanization of agriculture and the availability
of domestic work outside the Delta spurred the migration of Delta
residents from the region. Farming was unable to absorb the available
labor force, and entire families moved together, many going north on
the railroad to Chicago. People from the same towns often settled near
From the late 1930s through the 1950s, the Delta enjoyed an
agriculture boom, as wartime needs followed by reconstruction in
Europe expanded the demand for the Delta region’s farm products. As
the mechanization of agriculture continued, women left fieldwork and
went into service work, while the men drove tractors and worked on the
farms. From the 1960s through the 1990s, thousands of small farms and
dwellings in the Delta region were absorbed by large corporate-owned
agribusinesses, and the smallest Delta communities have stagnated.
Since the late 20th century, lower Delta agriculture has increasingly
been dominated by families and nonresident corporate entities that
hold large landholdings. Their operations are heavily mechanized with
low labor costs. Such farm entities are capital-intensive, where
hundreds and thousands of acres are used to produce market-driven
crops such as cotton, sugar, rice, and soybeans.
Remnants of the region’s agrarian heritage are scattered along the
highways and byways of the lower Delta. Larger communities have
survived by fostering economic development in education, government,
and medicine. Other endeavors such as catfish, poultry, rice, corn,
and soybean farming have assumed greater importance. Today, the
monetary value of these crops rivals that of cotton production in the
lower Delta. Shifts away from the river as a main transportation and
trading route to railroads and, more significantly, highways, have
left the river cities struggling for new roles and businesses.
In recent years,[when?] due to the growth of the automobile industry
in the South, many parts suppliers have opened facilities in the Delta
(as well as on the
Arkansas Delta side of the
another area of high poverty). The 1990s state legalization of casino
Mississippi has boosted the Delta's economy, particularly
in the areas of Tunica and Vicksburg.
A large cultural influence in the region is its history of hunting and
fishing. Hunting in the Delta is primarily for game such as whitetail
deer, wild turkey, and waterfowl, along with many small game species
(squirrel, rabbit, dove, quail, raccoon, etc.) For many years, the
hunting and fishing have also attracted visitors in the regional
tourism economy. The Delta is one of the top waterfowl destinations in
the world because it is in the middle of the
Mississippi Flyway (the
largest of all the migratory bird routes in America).
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White Democrats had used fraud, violence and intimidation to regain
control of the state legislature in the late 19th century.
Paramilitary groups such as the Red Shirts in
Mississippi were active
against Republicans and blacks to suppress their voting for state
candidates. But many blacks continued to be elected to local offices,
and there was a biracial coalition between Republicans and Populists
that briefly gained state power in the late 1880s.
To prevent this from happening again and to end the violence around
elections, in 1890 the
Mississippi state legislature passed a new
constitution to resolve these political issues; it effectively
disenfranchised most blacks by use of such devices as poll taxes,
literacy tests and grandfather clauses, which withstood court
challenges. If one method was overturned by the courts, the state
would come up with another to continue exclusion of blacks from the
political system. Unable to vote, they could not participate on
juries. Whites passed legislation to impose racial segregation and
other aspects of Jim Crow.
This system of white supremacy was maintained with violence and
economic boycotts into the years of increasing activism for civil
rights, as blacks worked to regain their constitutional rights as
citizens. The Delta counties were sites of fierce and violent white
resistance to change, with blacks murdered for trying to register to
vote or to use public facilities.
African Americans were not able to
exercise their constitutional rights again until well after their
successes in the Civil Rights Movement and gaining passage of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Delta is strongly associated as the place where several genres of
popular music originated, including the
Delta blues and rock and roll.
The mostly black sharecroppers and tenant farmers had lives marked by
poverty and hardship but they expressed their struggles in music that
became the beat, rhythm and songs of cities and a nation.
Gussow (2010) examines the conflict between blues musicians and black
ministers in the region between 1920 and 1942. The ministers condemned
blues music as "devil's music". In response, blues musicians satirized
preachers in their music, as for example in the song, "He Calls That
Religion", by the blues group
Mississippi Sheiks. The lyrics accused
black ministers of engaging in and fomenting sinful behavior. The
black residents were poor, and the musicians and ministers competed
for their money. The Great Migration to northern cities, beginning
before World War I, seriously depleted black communities and churches,
but the musicians sparked off each other in the industrial cities,
with blues in
Chicago and St. Louis.
Following is a list of various festivals in the Delta:
Mississippi River Marathon (Greenville)
Italian Festival of
Rivergate Festival (Tunica)
World Catfish Festival (Belzoni)
Leland Crawfish Festival (Leland)
Crosstie Arts &
Jazz Festival (Cleveland)
Juke Joint Festival (Clarksdale)
Dragon Boat Festival (Greenville)
Deep Delta Festival (Rolling Fork)
River to the Rails Festival (Greenwood)
Mainstream Arts & Crafts Festival (Greenville)
Showfest (Tunica) As of 2010
Webb Day Festival (Webb)
B.B. King Homecoming Festival (Indianola)
Blues Festival (Leland)
Delta Jubilee (Clarksdale)
Jazz Festival (Greenville)
Blues Festival (Clarksdale)
September Festival (Mound Bayou)
Delta Air and Balloon Festival (Greenwood)
Blues and Heritage Festival (Greenville)
Charleston Day Reunion (Charleston)
Gateway To The Delta Festival (Charleston)
Delta State University
Delta State University Pig Pickin' (Cleveland)
Great Delta Bear Affair
The Great Ruleville Roast
The King Biscuit
Blues Festival (Helena, AR)
Frog Fest (Leland)
Mississippi Music Festival (Greenville)
Delta Hot Tamale Festival (Greenville)
Delta Fest (Shaw)
Electroacoustic Juke Joint (Cleveland)
Roy Martin Delta Band Festival (Greenwood)
Government and infrastructure
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Mississippi Department of Corrections operates the Mississippi
State Penitentiary (Parchman, MSP) in unincorporated Sunflower
County, within the
Mississippi Delta. John Buntin of Governing
magazine said that MSP "has long cast its shadow over the Mississippi
Delta, including my hometown of Greenville, Mississippi".
Delta State University
Mississippi Valley State University
Coahoma Community College
Mississippi Delta Community College
Primary and secondary schools
During the years of segregation, public school systems did not know
how to classify the minority Chinese students, initially requiring
them to attend schools with blacks. Their socioeconomic status
affected their classification and, as their parents became merchants
and filed legal suits, in some areas they gained entrance for their
children to white schools, before the schools were integrated
beginning in the late 1960s.
As of 2005, the majority of students in public schools in the
Mississippi Delta are black, and the majority of private school
students are white. This de facto racial segregation is related in
part to economics, as few African-American parents in the poor region
can pay to send their children to private schools. Suzanne Eckes of
The Journal of Negro
Education wrote, "Although de facto segregation
in schools exists throughout the country, the de facto segregation
that exists in the
Mississippi Delta region is somewhat unique."
Media and publishing
Newspapers, magazines and journals
Belzoni Banner (published weekly)
Deer Creek Pilot (published weekly)
Delta Magazine (published bi-monthly)
Delta Business Journal (published monthly)
Clarksdale Press Register (published daily)
Cleveland Bolivar Commercial (published daily)
Greenville Delta Democrat Times (published daily)
Greenwood Commonwealth (published daily)
The Enterprise-Tocsin (published weekly)
The Tunica Times (published weekly)
The Northern Delta is also served by
The Commercial Appeal
The Commercial Appeal and The
Daily News newspapers based in Memphis, Tennessee, plus several radio
and TV stations also based there.
The Clarion-Ledger, based in Jackson, covers events in the Delta.
US 49 runs through the
Tunica Municipal Airport
Tunica Municipal Airport (Tunica)
Mid Delta Regional Airport
Mid Delta Regional Airport (Greenville)
Greenwood-Leflore Airport (Greenwood)
Cleveland Municipal Airport (Cleveland)
Indianola Municipal Airport
Indianola Municipal Airport (Indianola)
Yazoo County Airport
Yazoo County Airport (Yazoo City)
Fletcher Field Airport
Fletcher Field Airport (Clarksdale)
Ruleville-Drew Airport (Drew and Ruleville)
U.S. Route 82
U.S. Route 82 runs from
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo, New Mexico to Brunswick, Georgia
U.S. Route 49
U.S. Route 49 runs from Piggott,
Arkansas to Gulfport, Mississippi
U.S. Route 61
U.S. Route 61 runs from
Wyoming, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana
Amtrak serves two Delta cities, Yazoo City and Greenwood.
Delta Regional Authority
History of Mississippi
Joseph S. Clark's and Robert F. Kennedy's tour of the Mississippi
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Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity (1992)
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Remember the Civil War", The New York Times, accessed 10 March 2014
^ Beckert, Sven (2014). Empire of Cotton: a Global History. New York:
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^ "Vintage / Anchor « Knopf Doubleday - Vintage / Anchor".
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Mississippi Delta's Economy, Way of Life Fading". NPR. Retrieved
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– 借金問題の悩みを解決する方法". www.EAJJ.org.
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^ "State Prisons".
Mississippi Department of Corrections. Retrieved on
January 14, 2011.
^ "MDOC QUICK REFERENCE".
Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
^ Buntin, John. "Down on Parchman Farm". Governing Magazine. July 27,
2010. Retrieved on August 13, 2010.
^ Eckes, p. 159.
^ "Tunica Airport". www.TunicaAirport.com. Retrieved October 29,
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Mississippi Delta," Journal of Negro Education, vol. 74, no. 2 (Spring
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Culture: Volume 14: Folklife Chapel Hill, NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 2009.
Blues From The Delta. Revised edition. Cambridge, MA:
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Perspective on the
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the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta. New
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Equality in Mississippi’s Delta Schools Continues," Rural Roots.
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Owens, Harry P. Steamboats and the
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and Bayou," Southern Spaces, Dec. 12, 2011.
Willis, John C. Forgotten Time: The Yazoo-
Mississippi Delta After the
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Carolina Press, 1989.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for
State of Mississippi
Seal of Mississippi
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Radio stations in the
Memphis, Tennessee market
By FM frequency
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Nearby radio markets
List of radio stations in Tennessee
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Coordinates: 33°48′N 90°24′W / 33.8°N 90.4°W /