Tennessee (state), in the East South Central region of the United States, lying between the Mississippi River on the west and the backbone of the Blue Ridge province of the Appalachian Mountains on the east. It is considered one of the border states between the North and the South. Tennessee entered the Union on June 1, 1796, as the 16th state. Although it seceded at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, eastern Tennessee remained loyal to the Union. This border character reflects a deep-rooted difference between the upland and lowland areas. The east, with its rugged terrain covered with dense forest and brush, was settled mainly by independent yeoman farmers. It remained largely isolated from the outside world until the early 20th century. In contrast, the west, where cotton plantations once flourished, was linked with other regions through the Mississippi River. Central Tennessee, with its rolling inner core, had good transportation connections with other regions and developed a more diversified economy than that in the east.
These regional differences are reflected in the division of Tennessee into three so-called grand divisions, which are recognized under state law: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. Each of the divisions has its distinctive regional center, or centers: Chattanooga and Knoxville in East Tennessee; Nashville, the capital and largest metropolitan area, in Middle Tennessee; and Memphis, with the largest city population, in West Tennessee.
Tennessee’s population is nearly two-fifths rural, and no single city or group of cities dominates the state. While it is not highly urbanized, Tennessee is now more an industrial than an agricultural state. This change in emphasis has taken place since the 1930s and is attributable in large part to the planned development of the Tennessee river basin under the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Through the TVA programs, which attracted a great diversity of industries, including the federal government’s atomic energy research and development center at Oak Ridge, eastern Tennessee has become the most industrialized part of the state.
Tennessee is believed to derive its name from Tanasi, the name used by the Cherokee people for a village on the Little Tennessee River. The river was named after the village, and the region named after the river. The state has no official nickname but is frequently called the Volunteer State, used in recognition of the valor displayed by volunteer soldiers from the state during wars in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Tennessee ranks 36th in size among the states of the Union, with an area of 109,150 sq km (42,143 sq mi), including 2,398 sq km (926 sq mi) of inland water. The state has a maximum extent, from east to west, of 790 km (491 mi), a maximum north-south distance of 185 km (115 mi), and a mean elevation of 300 m (900 ft).
Tennessee’s seven natural regions lie between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east, and the Mississippi River on the west. The Tennessee portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains is known as the Unaka Range, a sparsely populated and mostly forested region along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Within the Unaka Chain is a large portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Clingmans Dome, which rises to 2,025 m (6,643 ft) above sea level and is the highest point in Tennessee.
The Ridge and Valley Province, containing the Great Valley of Tennessee, stretches westward from the Blue Ridge for 90 km (55 mi). It consists of a succession of relatively fertile and generally cultivated valleys that are separated by forested ridges. The ridges and valleys trend northeast-southwest, and rise to elevations between 600 and 750 m (2,000 and 2,500 ft).
From the Ridge and Valley Province the land rises abruptly over an escarpment to form the Tennessee portion of the Cumberland Plateau, which ranges northward into Kentucky. About 80 km (50 mi) wide, the once relatively flat plateau surface has been heavily dissected by streams, which have carved deep V-shaped valleys. Parts of the plateau are extremely rugged and difficult to access, and the usually flat-topped hills reach more than 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level. The upturned eastern edges of the plateau, identified from south to north as Walden Ridge, the Crab Orchard Mountains, and Cumberland Mountain, in places rise to more than 1,060 m (3,600 ft) in altitude.
Elevations drop sharply from the Cumberland Plateau on the west to the Highland Rim, an upland plain of low-to-moderate fertility that surrounds the Nashville Basin. The eastern portion of the Rim (Eastern Highland Rim) averages 300 m (1,000 ft) above sea level, but elevations decline somewhat toward the south and west.
Nestled within the Highland Rim is the Nashville Basin, a somewhat oval-shaped region extending 80 km (50 mi) east-west and 130 km (80 mi) south-north. Most of the basin is flat, with elevations ranging from 150 to 210 m (500 to 700 ft). Although some parts of the basin contain deep soils that support prosperous agriculture, other portions have thin soils that are limited primarily to grazing activities. The Nashville Basin is similar in geologic origin, composition, and structure, to the Blue Grass Basin of Kentucky, and both regions are known for raising fine horses.
The north-flowing Tennessee River marks the western boundary between the Highland Rim and the Gulf of Mexico portion of the Coastal Plain, which is characterized by gently rolling to flat surfaces. The rougher and higher parts lie closest to the Tennessee River. Overall, this region contains the state’s largest and most productive farms. Its east-west extent is about 160 km (about 100 mi).
The westernmost natural region in Tennessee is a narrow strip of land along the Mississippi River known as the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Also known as the Mississippi Bottoms, this is the smallest of Tennessee’s natural regions. Its low-lying swampy surface contains the lowest elevations in the state (54 m/178 ft). On the east it is bounded by steep bluffs.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
All the major rivers of Tennessee lie within the vast Mississippi river system. The principal rivers are the Mississippi River, along the state’s western border, and the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The Tennessee River is formed just east of Knoxville by the junction of the Holston and French Broad rivers. Flowing southwestward, it leaves the state at Chattanooga, curves through northern Alabama, and then flows northward across Tennessee to join the Ohio River in Kentucky. Its major tributaries in Tennessee include the Little Tennessee, Clinch, Big Sandy, Hiwassee, Elk, and Duck rivers. The Cumberland River, also a tributary of the Ohio, rises in Kentucky and meanders through northern Tennessee before reentering Kentucky to join the Ohio. Its principal tributaries in Tennessee are the Stone, Harpeth, Caney Fork, and Obey rivers. In western Tennessee several rivers flow directly into the Mississippi.
The largest natural lake is Reelfoot Lake, formed by the New Madrid earthquakes in 1811 and 1812. However, the largest bodies of water are reservoirs that lie behind dams on the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems.
The climate of Tennessee is characterized by hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall.
Average July temperatures range from less than 21° C (70° F) in the Blue Ridge region to 27° C (80° F) at Nashville and Memphis. Maximum daytime temperatures in summer often rise above 35° C (95° F) in central and western Tennessee. Daytime temperatures in the mountains rarely rise above 32° C (90° F). Summer nights tend to be warm and muggy in central and western Tennessee, but temperatures often are cooler in the east.
Average January temperatures range from less than 1° C (34° F) in the eastern mountains to more than 6° C (42° F) in southwestern Tennessee. In west-central Tennessee, even in midwinter, daytime temperatures often rise to a pleasant 10° C (50° F). Short periods of freezing temperatures occur in lowlands, but temperatures below -18° C (0° F) normally occur only in the mountain areas.
Average precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) ranges from more than 1,500 mm (60 in) in some of the higher mountain areas to less than 1,100 mm (45 in) in the more protected sections of the Ridge and Valley province. In western and central areas most precipitation falls during winter and early spring in the form of rain. Snowfall is light in the center and west, but it is often heavy in the eastern mountains. Thunderstorms occur frequently during spring and summer.
The growing season ranges from less than 150 days in northeastern Tennessee to more than 230 days in the southwest. The last killing spring frost usually occurs in the third week of March in western Tennessee and about 10 days later in the east. The first killing fall frost usually occurs in early November.
The principal soils in Tennessee are the red and yellow podzols, which occupy most of the lowland areas of the Ridge and Valley province and the western and central areas of the state. Light brown in color, these soils erode easily, require especially careful management, and are characteristically poor in organic matter and nutrients. The most productive podzols occur in the Nashville Basin, where the underlying rock, a phosphatic limestone, contributes unusually high amounts of phosphorus to the soil. Somewhat less productive are the podzols developed on the Highland Rim and the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Lithosols, or thin mountain soils, cover most of the Cumberland Plateau and the ridges and mountains of eastern Tennessee. Highly acidic, these soils support meager crops and pastures. Much of the land is forested. Alluvial soils, which are productive when properly drained and cultivated, predominate in the Mississippi bottomlands and in other river valleys. Near the Mississippi River is a band of loess, a very fine-textured, wind-deposited, soil that is highly productive.
In the 18th century most of Tennessee was covered by great hardwood forests. Today forests cover 55 percent of the state’s land area. Private landowners control most of the forest land.
Many species of oaks and hickories are found throughout Tennessee. Among the other forest trees of Tennessee are the tulip poplar, or tulip tree, which is the state tree, and the red maple, American sycamore, American elm, shortleaf pine, table-mountain pine, pitch pine, and white pine. Flowering trees and shrubs include the flame azalea, mountain laurel, vaccinium, and species of dogwoods and rhododendrons. Common wild flowers include the creeping phlox, fumitory, Dutchman’s-breeches, and Oswego tea.
The upland forests of eastern Tennessee are dominated by red spruces and Fraser firs. Forests of northern hardwoods also occur in the mountains and include such trees as the yellow birch, sugar maple, white ash, beech, and black cherry. Among the wild flowers in the high mountain forests of Tennessee are the wood sorrel, trout-lily, spring beauty, and phacelia. There are more varieties of plant life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than in all of Europe.
In the Nashville Basin there are open stands of red cedars together with post oaks, chinquapin oaks, shagbark hickories, winged elms, redbuds, and southern buckthorns. In the red cedar woods the spring wild flowers include the sandwort, sedum, phlox, verbena, and evening primrose. The iris, which is the state flower, is cultivated extensively in central Tennessee.
The bald cypress is common in the low swampy bottomlands of western Tennessee, along with black willows, cottonwoods, silver maples, sweet gums, and river birches. Some oaks and hickories are found on higher ground.
The bison, wolves, and elk (wapiti) that once roamed Tennessee have now disappeared from the state, and the only large mammals remaining are the black bear, the white-tailed deer, and the cougar. Red wolves were recently reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Among the small mammals now found are the red fox, beaver, mink, raccoon, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, and opossum. Other small mammals also found in Tennessee include the muskrat, woodchuck, cottontail, swamp rabbit, gray fox, and southern flying squirrel.
Western Tennessee lies in the Mississippi Flyway, and each spring and fall thousands of migratory birds pass through the state. Thousands of ducks spend the winter in the state. Among the other game birds of Tennessee are the bobwhite, ruffed grouse, mourning dove, and turkey.
The year-round bird residents of Tennessee include the robin, eastern bluebird, cardinal, meadowlark, Carolina chickadee, and the mockingbird, the state bird. Also found are the yellow-shafted flicker, whippoorwill, Carolina wren, sparrow hawk, and several species of woodpeckers. The summer bird residents include the brown thrasher, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, rose-breasted grosbeak, and species of warblers, sparrows, thrushes, flycatchers, hawks, and swallows.
There are many varieties of turtles, lizards, and snakes in Tennessee. The three poisonous snakes found there are the copperhead, cottonmouth, and timber rattlesnake. Among the nonpoisonous snakes are the black rat snake, black racer, garter snake, king snake, water snake, and pine snake. Fish found in the waters of Tennessee include black bass, carp, perch, catfish, and crappie.
Among federal agencies the TVA has played a very important role in conservation efforts, because the greater part of the state lies within the Tennessee river basin. The principal state agency responsible for conservation is the Tennessee department of conservation. Soil erosion, floods, and mismanagement of forests are the chief conservation problems. Erosion is widespread, because land too steep for cultivation has been plowed for centuries. Precious top soil has not only been washed away by the rivers but has silted up reservoirs, thereby creating further problems. Many critically eroded areas have been reforested with seedling trees, and other conservation techniques, such as contour plowing, have been introduced. The dams, reservoirs, and other control works on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and their tributaries help to prevent flooding.
The Tennessee pollution control board seeks to prevent pollution of the water and air. The Surface Mining Act of 1972 placed surface mining operations under strict control.
In 2006 the state had 13 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Some progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 19 percent. Still, this reduction was less than that recorded by many other states.
Tennessee was predominantly agricultural as late as 1940. During the second half of the 20th century the growth of manufacturing has been rapid, encouraged by low-cost power provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), improved transportation facilities, and nearby markets. In 1996 manufacturing was the leading contributor to the state gross product, followed by services and trade.
Tennessee had a work force of 2,990,000 in 2006. The largest share of those employed, 33 percent, worked in service industries such as those catering to tourists. Another 19 percent were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 13 percent in manufacturing; 15 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those serving in the military; 17 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 5 percent in construction; 22 percent in transportation or public utilities; 3 percent in farming (including agricultural services) or forestry; and a fraction of 1 percent in mining. In 2005, 5 percent of Tennessee’s workers were unionized.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
The state’s largest farms are in western Tennessee, where cotton has historically been the leading crop. Cotton is supplemented, or in some sections supplanted, by corn, soybeans, vegetables, strawberries, and tobacco. Eastward in the Nashville Basin, livestock predominate. Cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and poultry are raised there. On some farms, dairying is the chief source of income. Corn, hay, and other crops are grown mainly to feed the livestock, not for cash. However, in the Nashville Basin and on the Highland Rim, tobacco is an important crop.
Farm yields are generally lower in the Cumberland Plateau, where poor eroded soils, steep slopes, and lack of machinery and transportation have hampered agricultural development. Livestock raising (including dairying), and the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, and tobacco are carried on. Conditions improve in the Ridge and Valley province to the east, where farmers engage in tobacco cultivation and livestock raising.
There were 84,000 farms in Tennessee in 2005. Of those, only 26 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000. Many of the remainder were part-time operations whose farmers held other jobs. Farmland covered 4.7 million hectares (11.6 million acres), or 46 percent of the state’s land surface. At 56 hectares (138 acres), the average farm was relatively small.
Crops occupy 60 percent of the farmland, and they account for 49 percent of the income generated on farms. The sales of livestock and animal products generate the remainder of farm income.
Tennessee had a well-diversified crop base in the late 1990s, with income coming from cotton (including cotton lint and seed), soybeans, tobacco, corn, and nursery items. The state usually ranks among the leading states in tobacco production. In addition, wheat, greenhouse products, and vegetables such as tomatoes and snap beans are raised.
The sale of cattle and calves was the leading source of farm income in 1997, generating one-fifth of all sales. Other major sources of income include broilers (young chickens), eggs, dairy products, and hogs. Horses are also raised. The central part of the Nashville Basin is noted for its horse farms, where the famous Tennessee Walking Horse, which has a distinctively smooth gait, is raised.
The principal nonfuel minerals produced in Tennessee are crushed stone, zinc, cement, sand and gravel, and clay. Bituminous coalfields underlie 13,000 sq km (5,000 sq mi) of the state in the Cumberland Plateau, and Tennessee derives a significant portion of its total mining income from this fuel. Stone, primarily limestone, marble, and sandstone, is produced in numerous counties in central and eastern Tennessee. Tennessee ranks among the leading states in the quarrying of marble. The state leads the country in the production of natural gemstones and ball clay (a clay with a high content of organic material). It is second in zinc production, behind only Alaska. Zinc is mined chiefly in eastern Tennessee, but in 1969 a major zinc deposit was discovered in the central part of the state. Other minerals produced in the state in the late 1990s include petroleum, barite, lead, and lime.
The production of motor vehicles and parts constitutes Tennessee’s largest industry in terms of contribution to the overall state economy. Transportation goods manufactured in the state also include aircraft parts and boats. Other leading industries include those producing chemical products such as organic and inorganic compounds used in industry, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, and explosives; food products, particularly milled grains, baked goods, confections, and beverages; machinery such as refrigeration and heating equipment, metalworking machines, and construction equipment; rubber and synthetic compounds, especially tires and miscellaneous plastics; and fabricated metal products such as structural metal pieces, steel pipe, and aluminum sheets. Other important industries are printing and publishing, electronics, lumber and paper mills, apparel manufactures, and firms engaged in producing surgical appliances and supplies.
Manufacturing of durable goods such as automobiles and metal products has been growing quickly in Tennessee. Many industries have been attracted to the state by the relatively low cost of labor, power, and raw materials, by the number of waterfront sites on navigable rivers and lakes, and by Tennessee’s central location in relation to markets. The eastern part of the state is the most highly industrialized area as a whole, although Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, are the state’s main industrial centers.
Most of Tennessee is served by the TVA power system, which sends electricity either directly to industries or through municipalities or cooperatives. Some 10 percent of the state’s electricity is generated at hydroelectric power plants, while 62 percent of it is produced at huge thermal plants fueled by coal. The TVA constructed the first commercial nuclear power plant in Tennessee at Chickamauga Lake. The state now has 3 such plants, generating 29 percent of the state’s electricity.
Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga are the focal points of transportation routes in Tennessee.
The Tennessee River is a much-used waterway navigable by barges and other shallow-draft vessels. The Tennessee section of the Cumberland River is also navigable. These two rivers are joined by a canal. In 1985 construction was completed on a project that joined the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers with a canal in northeastern Mississippi and provided a shorter water route from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico. The western part of Tennessee is served by the Mississippi River. The state’s principal port is Memphis, on the east bank of the Mississippi.
Railroad mileage in the state totaled 4,199 km (2,609 mi) in 2004. As one of the few major bridging points across the lower Mississippi, Memphis is an important railroad junction. Goods originating in Tennessee and shipped by rail include chemicals (13 percent of total freight), food products (12 percent), glass and stone (14 percent) and coal (11 percent).
Tennessee is served by 145,567 km (90,451 mi) of highway, including 1,777 km (1,104 mi) of the interstate highway system. The main east-west route is Interstate 40, which links Tennessee’s principal cities. Freeways oriented north-south include interstates 24 and 65, which cross in Nashville, and Interstate 75, which passes through Knoxville in the east.
Tennessee had 8 airfields in 2007, most of which were private. Leading airports were in Nashville, the nation’s 37th busiest, Memphis, the 41st busiest, and Knoxville, 92nd busiest. Memphis is also an important hub for air-cargo transportation.
Memphis is a large cotton and hardwood lumber market for the United States. Regionally it is a major market for livestock and farm produce. Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga are also trade centers.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF TENNESSEE|
According to the 2000 national census, Tennessee ranked 16th among the states, with a total population of 5,689,283. This figure represented an increase of 16.7 percent over the 1990 census figure of 4,877,185. During the 1980s and 1990s population grew most rapidly in the Nashville Basin. East Tennessee had the second highest rate of growth, and West Tennessee had the slowest growth.
In 2000, 64 percent of the population lived in urban areas, compared with 44 percent in 1950. Among the fastest growing areas are the suburbs of Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville. The rural population declined during the 1950s and 1960s, but increased during the 1970s and 1980s. The average population density in 2006 was 57 persons per sq km (147 per sq mi).
In 2000 whites constituted 80.2 percent of the population, blacks 16.4 percent, Asians 1 percent, Native Americans 0.3 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 2.1 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 2,205. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 2.2 percent of the people.
Tennessee has one or more significant concentrations of urban population within each of its three divisions, but only Nashville (Middle Tennessee) and Memphis (West Tennessee) have metropolitan areas exceeding 1 million. Reflecting the rapid growth in the Nashville Basin during the 1980s and 1990s, the Nashville metropolitan area emerged in 1994 as the most populous area in the state, and by 2006 the population had grown to 1,455,097. The Memphis metropolitan area, which extends into Arkansas and Mississippi, had 1,274,704 people in 2006. The city of Memphis proper, however, is the larger, with 670,902 people in 2006, while Nashville had 578,698. East Tennessee has three significant urban concentrations, led by Knoxville (667,384 in the metropolitan area), the Johnson City—Kingsport—Bristol (Tri-Cities) region in the northeast (191,136 in the metropolitan area), and Chattanooga (496,704 in the metropolitan area).
Nashville, the state capital, has a diversified economy based on trade, manufacturing, tourism, and governmental administration. It is also a major music recording center, and has a large printing industry. Memphis is a major manufacturing, commercial, and transportation center, and the state’s chief port. Knoxville, the chief city of eastern Tennessee, has the main campus of the University of Tennessee, contains a variety of manufacturing and service industries, and benefits from proximity to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Chattanooga is engaged in a significant transition from a heavy industry orientation toward a more diversified economy based on trade, recreation, tourism, and manufacturing.
The denominations in the state with the largest memberships are the Baptists, followed by the United Methodists, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals. Several fundamentalist sects, especially in the upland regions, maintain the revivalist tradition in Tennessee. The Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, also have their headquarters in Nashville.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The present educational system dates from a school law enacted in 1873. The Tennessee legislature provided for tax-supported secondary schools in 1893, and provisions for the establishment of county high schools were enacted six years later. Interest in the upgrading of education increased markedly during the late 19th century and early 20th century, and by 1913 a third of the state’s income was set aside for educational purposes. Education in Tennessee is now compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 17. Of the children in the state, 10 percent are enrolled in private schools.
In the 2002–2003 school year Tennessee spent $6,962 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 15.7 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students per teacher). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 80.9 percent had a high school diploma in 2006, while the country as a whole averaged 84.1 percent.
The first two colleges in Tennessee, Greeneville College (now Tusculum College) and Blount College (now the University of Tennessee, Knoxville), were chartered in 1794. In 2004–2005 Tennessee had 22 public and 75 private institutions of higher education. Leading schools included the University of Tennessee, the state’s land-grant university with campuses in several cities; Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, Tennessee State University, and Meharry Medical College, in Nashville; Carson-Newman College, in Jefferson City; University of the South, in Sewanee; Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate; Austin Peay State University, in Clarksville; University of Memphis; and Middle Tennessee State University, in Murfreesboro. Vanderbilt University includes the noted George Peabody College for Teachers, and Fisk University is one of the leading institutions of higher education for blacks in the country.
Public libraries are found in most Tennessee cities and towns, with the largest in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. In all, 184 tax-supported library systems serve the state. The public libraries annually circulate an average of 4 books for each state resident, one of the lowest circulation rates in the country. The State Library and Archives is located at Nashville. Major college and university libraries in the state include the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University; the libraries of the University of Tennessee; and the Eskind Biomedical Library at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Special collections of books by and about blacks are housed at Le Moyne-Owen College, in Memphis, and Fisk University, in Nashville; Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, has collections on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.
Fine arts museums in Tennessee include the Hunter Museum of American Art, in Chattanooga; the Knoxville Museum of Art; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, in Memphis; and Cheekwood-Tennessee Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art, and the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk University, in Nashville. Other museums of note include the Pink Palace Museum which features a planetarium and an IMAX theater, and the Mississippi River Museum at Mud Island, in Memphis; the Parthenon, Cumberland Science Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Tennessee State Museum, in Nashville; the Frank H. McClung Museum on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville; the Museum of Appalachia, in Norris, near Knoxville; and the American Museum of Science and Energy, in Oak Ridge.
There were 23 daily newspapers published in Tennessee in 2002. The first newspaper published was the Knoxville Gazette, printed at Rogersville in 1791 and moved to Knoxville the following year. The oldest newspaper still published in the state is the daily Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, which was founded in 1808. The Nashville Tennessean, one of the larger of the Tennessee dailies, was founded four years later. Other major Tennessee dailies include the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The Times was published after 1878 by Adolph S. Ochs, who later owned and developed the New York Times.
Tennessee’s first radio station was WKN, at Memphis, licensed in 1922. The first television station, also located in Memphis, was WMCT, which began operating in 1948. In 2002 Tennessee had 133 AM and 138 FM radio stations and 26 television stations.
|E||Music and Theater|
The folk culture of Tennessee has played an important part in the development of the state’s music. Bluegrass music originated in Bristol, Tennessee, and blues music was developed among blacks living along the famous Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Both black and white spirituals are popular, and there is also a considerable body of “work” songs. The Grand Ole Opry has helped spread country-and-western music through many nationally broadcast radio performances from Nashville.
Concerts were inaugurated in Tennessee in about 1816. Theodore Thomas introduced symphonic music in the 1870s and subsequently directed the Memphis Festival Concerts of 1884. Opera has been popular in Tennessee since the late 19th century.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
The National Park Service administers several units in Tennessee. In Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, in Greeneville, are the grave of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, two houses that he owned, and his tailor shop. Great Smoky Mountains National Park extends along the Tennessee-North Carolina state line and covers 2,100 sq km (800 sq mi). A section of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park also lies within Tennessee. The largest historical park in the United States, it includes an area of valleys, forests, and rugged mountains in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic thoroughfare that follows the route of the historic Natchez Trace. A part of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is also in Tennessee.
Other National Park Service units in Tennessee are associated with the Civil War. Part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park lies in the Chattanooga area in the south, and the remainder is nearby, in Georgia (see Chickamauga, Battle of;Chattanooga, Battle of). Fort Donelson National Battlefield lies in the northwest, near the small town of Dover, 50 km (30 mi) west of Clarksville. Lying within the military park is Fort Donelson National Cemetery. Stones River National Battlefield, including Stones River National Cemetery, is located near Murfreesboro, in the center of the state (see Stones River, Battle of). Shiloh National Military Park, including Shiloh National Cemetery, in the southwest, marks the site of the famous Battle of Shiloh
Within the state is 254,000 hectares (628,000 acres) of the Cherokee National Forest. The acreage is divided into two areas along the eastern border of Tennessee. The forest offers picnicking, camping, fishing, and other recreational facilities. In addition, there are supervised expeditions for hunting deer, bears, wild boars, and other animals.
Most of the units of the state park system have facilities for picnicking, hiking, riding, and camping. Fall Creek Falls State Park, noted for its rugged terrain, is in east-central Tennessee. This scenic park includes Fall Creek Falls, some 78 m (256 ft) high, and Cane Creek Gorge. Situated in the western plateau area is the largest state park, Natchez Trace State Park, which contains three lakes. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is located on the wooded bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The park has trails for driving and horseback riding. Pickett State Rustic Park, in a remote and rugged area of the Cumberland Plateau, near the Kentucky border, features caves and interesting rock formations. Cedars of Lebanon State Recreational Park, located east of Nashville, contains a portion of the largest red-cedar forest in the eastern United States. Big Ridge State Rustic Park, in eastern Tennessee, lies in a heavily wooded area on the shore of Big Ridge Lake.
Montgomery Bell State Resort Park, west of Nashville, includes clear streams and two lakes in red-cedar country. One of the most popular recreation areas in the state is Reelfoot Lake State Resort Park, in the northwestern corner of the state. David Crockett State Recreational Park is a historic area honoring the American frontiersman who was born in the state (see Crockett, Davy). Paris Landing State Resort Park, located in a remote region of the Cumberland Plateau, is noted for its caves and rock formations.
|D||Other Places of Interest|
There are numerous historic houses in the state. The Hermitage, near Nashville, was the home of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. In Columbia is the ancestral home of President James K. Polk. Near Smyrna is a simple frame building that has been restored as a shrine. It was the home of Sam Davis, a Confederate spy captured and hanged by federal troops at the age of 21 after refusing an offer of freedom in exchange for revealing his informant. In Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum, on the site where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968.
Land Between the Lakes, a recreation area that lies in Tennessee and Kentucky between lakes Barkley and Kentucky, is operated by the TVA. The area was conceived as a demonstration in outdoor recreation and environmental education.
Scenic places of interest, in addition to the units maintained by the federal government and the state, include Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, from the top of which seven states are visible on a clear day. Roan Mountain, about 30 km (about 20 mi) from Elizabethton, has a rhododendron garden on its summit of 1,916 m (6,285 ft). Among the many beautiful caverns in Tennessee is Jewel Cave, near Tennessee City, which contains onyx formations and fossils.
Fort Loudoun, near Vonore, is a partially restored fort built in the 1750s by the British as an outpost against the French. Fort Nashborough, in Nashville, is a reproduction of the original fort, with blockhouses and stockades, that was built nearby on the Cumberland River in 1780. South of the city is the site of the Battle of Nashville, a Civil War engagement in 1864. Old forts, breastworks, and trenches are preserved there.
Many of Tennessee’s attractions are associated with its musical heritage. A steady flow of visitors walk the halls of Graceland, the home of rock-and-roll pioneer Elvis Presley. The Beale Street Historic District, also in Memphis, is considered the source of a particular type of blues music. In Nashville, Opryland is home to the Grand Ole Opry, a live country music show which has been performed every weekend since 1925. Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a family entertainment park founded by country-western singer Dolly Parton.
Mud Island, in Memphis, is a park dedicated to life on the Mississippi River and includes a detailed, flowing scale model of the river which traces its course to the Gulf of Mexico. The Tennessee Aquarium, in Chattanooga, has thousands of living plants and animals, including alligators and sharks.
Many visitors are attracted to the Memphis in May International Festival, featuring pageants, street parades, carnival balls, and street dancing. The annual national field trials for bird dogs are held at Grand Junction in the middle of February. Early spring brings the Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville in April. May brings the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival at Humboldt and the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville. The Rhododendron Festival on Roan Mountain is in June. The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration is held at Shelbyville in August. In September the State Fair is held in Nashville and the Mid-South Fair in Memphis. The Fall Craftsman’s Fair is held at Gatlinburg in October. The Liberty Bowl, a post-season college football game, is played at Memphis in December.
Tennessee’s mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and parks provide sports enthusiasts with ideal conditions for such outdoor activities as fishing, swimming, boating, hunting, horseback riding, hiking, and golf. Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest, both in the eastern part of the state, are particularly popular recreational areas. Automobile races are held in Nashville and at the Bristol International Speedway and Drag Strip, in Bristol. Gatlinburg, at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains Park, is a center for skiing and other winter sports. Tennessee’s professional football team is the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers). The team moved to Tennessee in 1997.
Tennessee has had three constitutions. The first state constitution was adopted in 1796, and the second in 1835. The present one, adopted in 1870, was revised by limited constitutional conventions in 1953, 1959, 1965, 1971, and 1977. Amendments to the constitution must be approved by a simple majority of the elected members of each house of the state legislature, then by a two-thirds majority during the next legislative session. The amendment must then be ratified by a majority of the Tennesseans voting for governor in the next general election. Amendments may also be initiated by a constitutional convention, but this may only be done once every six years.
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term and may not serve more than two terms in a row. The governor may veto proposed legislation, but the legislature may override the veto by a majority vote of the houses. The governor appoints numerous state officials, including most of the heads of the executive departments. Of the state administrative officials, only the governor and the three public service commissioners are elected directly by the voters. The remaining officials, the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller are elected by the legislators. The attorney general is selected by the justices of the state supreme court.
The state legislature, which is called the General Assembly, consists of a 33-member Senate and a 99-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected for four-year terms, and house members are elected for two-year terms. The legislature meets in regular sessions, beginning in January. In addition, the governor has the power to call special sessions.
The highest court in Tennessee is the state supreme court, which consists of five justices elected for eight-year terms. The justices select one of their number to serve as chief justice. The two intermediate tribunals are the court of criminal appeals and the court of appeals. Judges on these courts are elected to eight-year terms, as are judges of the state’s chancery courts, circuit courts, criminal courts, and law-equity courts. Tennessee courts with purely local jurisdiction include justice-of-the-peace courts, courts of general sessions, and county courts.
Most of Tennessee’s 95 counties are governed by county courts made up of popularly elected justices of the peace and presided over by a county judge or chairman. In some counties administrative functions are performed by elected county commissions. The government of Davidson County is combined with that of the city of Nashville.
There are 336 municipalities in Tennessee, most of which are governed by a mayor and council. Some municipalities, however, have either the council and manager form of government or the commission form of government.
Tennessee elects two U.S. senators and nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The state casts 11 electoral votes in Presidential elections.
In the prehistoric period, several different Native American cultures flourished in Tennessee. Nomadic hunters, whose culture is called Paleo-Indians by archaeologists, were present about 11,500 years ago. Divided into small bands, they ranged widely over the land, hunting many now-extinct animals. In the Archaic culture, from about 8,000 to 2,500 years ago, woven baskets and highly specialized stone tools abounded. Beginning about 2,500 years ago, people of the Woodland culture practiced horticulture, mound building, and the making of clay pottery. Mounds remaining from this period still exist in many parts of Tennessee.
By the 1500s the state was occupied by essentially the same Native American peoples who were there when whites first entered the area. From west to east, the dominant peoples in early historic times were the Chickasaw, the Yuchi, and the Cherokee.
The Chickasaw, most of whom lived in northern Mississippi and Alabama, claimed western Tennessee. The Cherokee lived on the upper reaches of the Tennessee River and claimed the eastern part of the present state as their hunting ground. The Yuchi, part of the Creek, and other small tribes were driven out to the south about 1700. About the same time the Chickasaw and Cherokee forced the Shawnee, who had lived in the north central region, to move north of the Ohio River. Thereafter Middle Tennessee was a hunting ground, disputed between the Chickasaw and Cherokee but inhabited by neither. Both peoples maintained their claims to much of Tennessee into the 19th century.
|B1||First European Explorers|
Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to enter the area. Hernando de Soto came in 1540 on his way to the Mississippi River and crossed it in 1541 near the site of present-day Memphis. In northeastern Mississippi he met the Chickasaw, whom he recorded as “Chicaza.” From an early time they maintained a landing place at the site of present-day Memphis, which was connected to their settlements in Mississippi by a 256-km (160-mi) trail.
Another Spaniard, Juan Pardo, explored eastern Tennessee in the 1560s and built several forts, including one near present-day Chattanooga. The forts were later abandoned, and Spain showed little further interest in the area.
The Spanish contact was a disaster for the Native Americans because the Spanish brought European diseases to which the Native Americans had no immunity. A severe population decrease soon occurred, most likely caused by the spread of these diseases. The central Mississippi valley was thinly inhabited by the time the French arrived in 1673. Those who survived the plague merged into larger groups and developed a consciousness of national identity such that, by the time of white settlement, the Cherokee and Chickasaw particularly were capable of concerted action in both war and peace. Both nations were quick to adopt elements of white culture, and by the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783) lived in substantial log cabins like those of the white settlers.
|B2||French and English|
In 1673 English explorers James Needham and Gabriel Arthur led an expedition from Virginia into eastern Tennessee. Others followed. In the same year the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet described the Chickasaw Bluffs, near the site of Memphis, on their voyage down the Mississippi. Another Frenchman, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, set up a temporary post, Fort Prud’homme, on the Chickasaw Bluffs near the site of Memphis in 1682. La Salle continued down the Mississippi to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. On the basis of this exploration he claimed all the land drained by the Mississippi for France, naming it Louisiane (in English, Louisiana).
The claim to Louisiana gave the French an enormous but not clearly defined area for trade and settlement. Thirty years later, French traders built a temporary post at the site of Nashville, which was later called the French Lick after them. However, they never founded a true settlement in Tennessee, and even their trading priority was disputed by the English. The English maintained that they had rights in the area because their explorers, Needham, Arthur, and others, had been there before La Salle.
|C||The Colonial Period|
Late in the 17th century, English fur traders began to come over the Appalachian Mountains from the colonies of Virginia and Carolina and compete with French traders for the Native American trade in the region. The rivalry was encouraged by the national governments of France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain (a union of Scotland, England and Wales). These two powers each sought Native American support in a series of wars that culminated in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
Both the Cherokee and the Chickasaw fought on the side of Britain during most of the war. The Chickasaw had long been unfriendly to the French, ever since the French allied themselves with the Chickasaw’s traditional enemies, the Choctaw of Mississippi. The Cherokee wavered, however. In 1760, fearing deception by Britain and resenting British encroachment on their lands, they laid siege to the British post of Fort Loudoun on the Little Tennessee River and killed several people. They made peace again with the British in 1761.
In 1763 the French surrendered after the British defeated them in the last major battle of the war. The peace treaty gave Britain control of Louisiana, including the Tennessee region, as far west as the Mississippi. France lost all its possessions on the North American continent.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 issued by the British king banned settlement by whites west of the Appalachians, but the backcountry dwellers of Virginia and North Carolina ignored it. The “long hunters,” who hunted and trapped for several months at a time before returning home, were the first to come in fairly large numbers. By 1769 hundreds of people had built log cabins in the Watauga River valley with the intention of making permanent homes. They soon explored and settled the rich valleys of the nearby Holston and Nolichucky rivers and by 1772 formed the Watauga Association to govern themselves. Although they still considered themselves North Carolinians, they knew that North Carolina was prevented by the king’s proclamation from extending its law to where they lived. So they adopted their own constitution, the first one west of the Appalachians. They gained a temporary right to remain by negotiating with the Cherokee a ten-year lease on the land they occupied, which they later converted into a purchase.
Three years later, the American Revolution began in the East. At the same time land speculators in North Carolina formed the Transylvania Company, headed by Judge Richard Henderson, and purchased a vast tract of Cherokee land in present-day Tennessee and Kentucky. Henderson urged a Wataugan, James Robertson, to examine the rich central basin, which is now called the Nashville Basin, with a view to starting a settlement there. Robertson agreed, and took a small party across the mountains in 1779. Robertson found the land promising, and in 1780 he and John Donelson led several hundred people overland, while others went by flatboat, to establish Fort Nashborough (which is now Nashville) on the Cumberland River near the site of the old French Lick. Like the Wataugans, these settlers formed a government and wrote a constitution, the Cumberland Compact. Soon they were growing even more rapidly than the Watauga colony.
Henderson had already sent the wilderness scout Daniel Boone to blaze a trail through the Appalachians, at Cumberland Gap, to the Kentucky River. For many years, the first part of Boone’s trail, known as the Wilderness Road, remained a portion of the major link between settlements in East and Middle Tennessee.
|D||The Revolutionary Period and After|
Many Tennessee settlers supported independence of the colonies from Britain, and Tennesseans fought in the revolution against British and Loyalist forces and their Native American allies. On October 7, 1780, in South Carolina, Tennessee riflemen commanded by Isaac Shelby and John Sevier defeated a British force at the Battle of Kings Mountain, which was the turning point of the war in the South.
After the war, in 1784, North Carolina, which had claimed the Tennessee region, ceded its claim to the U.S. government. The residents of eastern Tennessee then began making plans for a new state to be called Franklin. Plans for statehood were carried forward even after North Carolina repealed the cession later that year, and a state administration began functioning with John Sevier as governor. However, the Congress of the United States declined to admit the new state, and the Franklin government collapsed because of internal dissension in 1788. North Carolina charged Sevier with treason but never brought him to trial.
In the following year, 1789, North Carolina again ceded its western land claims to the federal government. Early in 1790 Congress organized the region as part of the Territory South of the River Ohio, unofficially called the Southwest Territory. William Blount was appointed governor, and voters chose a legislature that began preparing for statehood. A special census in 1795 showed a population of 77,262, including 66,649 free inhabitants, more than the 60,000 necessary for statehood. In 1796 Tennessee adopted a state constitution, elected a legislature, chose Sevier again as governor, and elected Andrew Jackson as its U.S. congressman. On June 1, 1796, Congress admitted Tennessee as the 16th state in the federal Union. Knoxville was made the state capital. The state’s white population was largely of English, Scots-Irish, and German ethnic origins.
At that time nearly three-fourths of Tennessee was claimed by the Cherokee and Chickasaw, although settlers, speculators, and Revolutionary soldiers, under grants given by North Carolina, claimed much of the same territory. In a series of cessions between 1798 and 1819 the Native Americans gave up most of their claims, and by 1819 the Cherokee lands in the Chickamauga Valley around Chattanooga were the only Native American claims recognized.
As Native American lands were opened, whites settled all parts of the state. The 1830 population of 681,904 grew to more than 1 million by 1860. Vast new lands, opened to cultivation, yielded large crops of corn, cotton, and tobacco, and by 1840 Tennessee led all states in corn production. Most of the corn was fed to livestock, and Tennessee became one of the large swine producing states. Tobacco and cotton were the state’s major cash crops, but neither was grown as widely as corn.
Agricultural patterns varied considerably between sections of the state. East Tennessee, with its many narrow valleys and steep ridges, was largely an area of small subsistence farms. Middle Tennessee developed diversified commercial farming, where cotton growing, corn and livestock farming, and tobacco growing, particularly in the northern counties, were carried on. The region gained repute for its horses and mules raised on the bluegrass pastures of the Nashville Basin, and there was also substantial dairy farming. West Tennessee, with its fertile lowlands, was largely taken up with cotton cultivation. Memphis, founded in 1819, quickly became the commercial center for the western cotton region.
Plantations worked by slaves were more common in West Tennessee than elsewhere, although the central region also had its share of plantations in the southern counties. In 1860, slaves were 40 percent of the population in the western counties and 25 percent in the state as a whole. Less than 10 percent lived in the eastern counties.
Although by 1860 the vast majority of Tennesseans made their living in agriculture, the manufacture of textiles grew rapidly in the developing towns. By that date Tennessee ranked just behind Pennsylvania and New York in the mining and manufacture of iron. Coal, copper, and other minerals were mined in East Tennessee.
East Tennesseans depended heavily on the state’s navigable streams for commerce and travel, and river traffic increased greatly after steam navigation was introduced early in the 19th century. The Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, the state’s most important waterways, teemed with boats; Governor William Carroll owned one of them, which he named the Andrew Jackson. Access to river ports was improved in the 1830s by the construction of numerous turnpikes, mostly in Middle Tennessee. The most widely used roads formed a network that centered on Nashville and spurred that city’s economic growth. Railroad construction became widespread in the 1850s.
|H||The 19th Century|
The nation’s first political party, the Federalists, who favored the urban commercial North, were never popular west of the Appalachians. Tennesseans flocked to Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party (later the Democratic-Republican Party and then the Democratic Party), which drew its strength from agrarian interests and opposed aid to the urban North. After Federalist congressmen sought to delay Tennessee’s admission to the federal Union, its leaders vowed continued support for Jefferson and helped elect him to the presidency in 1800. Although Tennessee was to remain a one-party state for nearly four decades, sectionalism and personal factions were so rife that intraparty squabbles among the Democrats were frequent. Powerful leaders in the populous eastern counties kept Knoxville’s John Sevier in office for six terms, but three Middle Tennesseans, Willie Blount (William Blount’s half-brother), Sam Houston, and William Carroll, soon pushed the East Tennesseans aside and between them held the governor’s office for 20 years. Middle Tennessean leaders moved the capital from Knoxville to Murfreesboro and finally to Nashville. They built roads leading out of Nashville like spokes of a wheel and, finding the soil in the Nashville Basin rich and productive, dominated the state in politics and wealth.
Middle Tennesseans found a powerful leader in Andrew Jackson, who married John Donelson’s daughter Rachel. Jackson’s stunning victory in the War of 1812, where he defeated a British army at New Orleans in 1815, made him a national hero, and he soon emerged to dominate the political scene. His many duels, brutal brawls, and raucous behavior around Nashville at the turn of the century were forgiven, and Tennesseans sent him to the U.S. Senate in 1823 and to the presidency in 1829.
While Jackson had his share of enemies in both the state and the nation, his forces were strong enough to control Tennessee politics for most of the 1820s and 1830s. These included powerful local politicians such as William Carroll and men of great landholdings and wealth such as John Overton. The democratic spirit of the period was reflected in Tennessee laws modernizing the criminal code, establishing more humane prisons, building better mental health facilities, making most county offices elective, and removing inequities in taxation of real property. A new constitution eliminated property requirements for holding office and made representation in the legislature proportional. However, it still deprived blacks of the right to vote.
During the early 1830s, enemies of Jackson—led by John Bell of Nashville and Hugh Lawson White of Knoxville—formed a political alliance that replaced Carroll with a governor of their own. Jackson’s enemies at the national level, including leaders such as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun, joined with Bell and White to form the Whig Party. Both White and Webster ran for president against Jackson’s candidate, Martin Van Buren, in 1836. White won Tennessee by a large majority, although he failed to win the presidency.
James K. Polk, a staunch Jacksonian, reorganized the Democratic Party in the state, gained control of the state legislature, and became governor in 1839. The national Democratic Party chose Polk for the presidency in 1844, and he won. However, he did not carry Tennessee, where Whigs continued strong until the late 1850s. The Whigs blamed Polk for the Mexican War (1846-1848), but Polk emerged the victor when the peace treaty gave the United States new western lands that nearly doubled the size of the country.
|H2||Removal of the Native Americans|
The Cherokee in the 19th century made great progress in developing a national government and improving their economic well-being. They maintained generally peaceful relations with the Americans although they fought for the British in the revolution. Thereafter the bulk of the Cherokee settled in the Chickamauga Valley and prospered under their chief John Ross. The town that became modern-day Chattanooga was begun there about 1815 as a trading post called Ross’ Landing. In 1820 the nation formed itself into a republic, adopting a constitution modeled on the Constitution of the United States.
In the 1820s the Cherokee became literate in their own language when they adopted the 85-character syllabary invented by a Cherokee scholar, Sequoyah or George Guess. The syllabary was used to print a weekly newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate, which was begun in 1828. In the early 19th century there were many prosperous, privately owned Cherokee plantations, and some Cherokee owned slaves to work their plantations.
In 1828 gold was discovered in the Cherokee territory, and pressure from whites increased to remove the nation from its traditional lands. In 1835, under threat of federal force, the Cherokee, in a fraudulent treaty signed by only a small minority of them, relinquished their claim to what remained of their lands in Tennessee. In 1838 they were removed from the state by federal troops into Arkansas Territory in a forced march, on which thousands of them died, and which for that reason was later called the Trail of Tears. About 1,000 escaped to the east and found refuge in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
|H3||The Civil War|
Scarcely had the Mexican War ended when in 1850 Southern leaders convened in Nashville for a “Southern Convention.” There they complained of increasing dissatisfaction with the federal government. The South, overwhelmingly agricultural, produced cash crops—cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane—for export to the North or to Europe, but it depended on the North for manufactures and for the financial and commercial services essential to trade. Underscoring sectional differences, the labor force in the South included nearly 4 million enslaved blacks. Although the slaveholding planter class formed a small minority of the population, it dominated Southern politics and society. Slaves were the largest single investment in the South, and the fear of slave unrest ensured the loyalty of nonslaveholders to the economic and social system.
The South had become a minority section, and its leaders viewed the actions of Congress, over which they had lost control, with growing concern. The North demanded for its industrial growth a protective tariff, federal subsidies for shipping and internal improvements, and a sound banking and currency system. The West looked to Congress for free homesteads and federal aid for its roads and waterways. The South, however, regarded such measures as discriminatory, favoring Northern commercial interests. It also found intolerable the rise of antislavery agitation in the North.
At this convention and other gatherings through the 1850s, Southerners often talked of secession from the Northern-dominated federal Union. Tennesseans, however, seldom joined in such rhetoric. Although some, such as James G. M. Ramsey of Knoxville, openly predicted that “the days of our present Union are numbered,” most Tennesseans were not ready to contemplate secession.
The prospect of a Southern secession depended on the presidential election of 1860, and as that contest approached people viewed the candidates with considerable apprehension. Tennesseans supported U.S. Senator John Bell, an indecisive man whose simple platform merely called for the preservation of the Union and the strict upholding of the Constitution. By November 1860, however, Americans were so sectionally polarized that Bell’s candidacy interested few voters outside Tennessee and the border states. Instead, Illinoian Abraham Lincoln of the new (1854) Republican Party became president with less than 40 percent of the popular vote and with no support south of the Ohio River.
Seven states seceded before Lincoln could be inaugurated, but Tennesseans still did not consider secession until a federal fort (Fort Sumter, South Carolina) was attacked and Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 men to “suppress the rebellion.” This left no doubt that federal armies soon would invade the South. Tennesseans voted by a substantial majority on June 8, 1861, to secede. In most of East Tennessee, the vote was against secession, and leaders there tried to form an independent state of loyal people. U.S. Senator Andrew Johnson of Greeneville refused to surrender his Senate seat, contending that no state could legally secede.
With the coming of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Tennessee was in the middle of it from the beginning: More battles were fought in the Volunteer State than in all other states except Virginia. The war in Tennessee included a half-dozen major battles, and hundreds of skirmishes, between the army of the Union and the army of the Confederate States of America, as the seceded states called themselves. Fort Donelson (1862), Shiloh (1862), Stones River (1863), Chattanooga (1863), Franklin (1864), and Nashville (1864) were large battles fought within the state’s borders. All these battles destroyed much property and took many lives. The majority were Northern victories and eventually opened the South to invading armies. After 1862 civilians were constantly harassed by marauding armies traversing the state.
By the end of 1864 Northern military forces controlled all of Tennessee. Andrew Johnson, whom Lincoln installed as military governor in the spring of 1862, served in this unique capacity until he became Lincoln’s vice president in 1865. The radical Republican William G. Brownlow, a Knoxville preacher and newspaper publisher, then became the governor during the restoration, or Reconstruction, period. He served until 1869.
During Brownlow’s administration, ex-Confederates were disfranchised (deprived of their right to vote). Political party allegiance changed. The Republican Party became dominant in the counties that were loyal to the Union during the war, while the former Confederates adhered to the Democrats. Internal dissension had brought an end to the Whigs. In July 1866 Tennessee ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which guaranteed basic political rights to all U.S. citizens, and was readmitted to the Union by Congress. Tennessee was the first state to be readmitted. A race riot in Memphis in May 1866, when white residents attacked the city’s black community, had drawn congressional attention to the need to safeguard the newly freed blacks’ rights, thus helping to secure passage of the amendment in Congress.
Racial tensions erupted elsewhere in Tennessee soon after the war. Vigilante groups and terrorist activities spread among the central and western counties, causing Governor Brownlow to impose military law over some of them.
The most notorious of the vigilante groups was the Ku Klux Klan, organized in Pulaski, Tennessee, in the winter of 1865 to 1866, by six former Confederate army officers. The Klan became committed to destroying the Reconstruction governments from the Carolinas to Arkansas. Klan members terrorized public officials in efforts to drive them from office and blacks in general to prevent them from voting, holding office, and otherwise exercising their newly acquired political rights. If intimidation failed to frighten their target, their victims might be flogged, mutilated, or murdered, all justified by the Klan as necessary to defend white supremacy.
Brownlow was succeeded by a conservative Republican, DeWitt C. Senter, in 1869. The new governor had been a Northern sympathizer but believed in universal manhood suffrage—that is, allowing all adult males to vote. He permitted former Confederates to vote, and this enabled the Democratic Party to regain control of the state. Strong in areas where the Confederates had been supported, Democrats remained solidly in control until relatively recent times. A new constitution of 1870 provided for universal manhood suffrage. Blacks began to participate in politics and to win office, usually as Republicans. In 1872 a Nashville barber, Sampson W. Keeble, became the first black to serve in the legislature. Office holding and voting by blacks declined substantially after the 1880s, when black suffrage was curtailed by the poll tax and other measures.
|H5||Postwar Economic Developments|
Tennessee recovered slowly from the economic ravages of the Civil War. During Reconstruction, Northern investors brought capital into the cities and expanded industry. East Tennessee, particularly Chattanooga and Knoxville, rapidly gained in industrial importance, and new businesses and industries were established in Nashville and Memphis, which became an important center of cottonseed processing. Agriculture continued to be the main source of income, however, and many cotton plantations and other large holdings were broken up into smaller farms worked by tenants and sharecroppers.
With slavery abolished, blacks and whites had to adjust to wage labor. Most blacks and many poor whites had no land of their own. They had to work for large landowners, who had little cash to pay them. Under these conditions, a system of sharecropping and tenant farming evolved. A sharecropper raised part of the landlord’s crop and was paid a share of the profit after deductions for living expenses and the cost of tools and supplies. A tenant farmer sold what he raised and paid the landlord a share of the profit as rent. If the profit was low, the landlord was paid first. The cropper or tenant took what was left or, if none was left, got an advance to keep going until the next harvest.
Cotton was the preferred cash crop. Unfortunately, the price of cotton fell soon after the Civil War and stayed depressed until the end of the century. Thus the tenants and sharecroppers found themselves in an endless cycle of debt that they could not earn enough to get out of. Laws were passed limiting the freedom of croppers and tenants and restricting their economic opportunities. For instance, they forfeited any share in crops they abandoned, and their personal property could be seized through chattel mortgages. It was not until World War II (1939-1945) that the tenant farming and sharecropping system began to disappear because widespread mechanization of agriculture made it unprofitable.
The agricultural slump was not limited to cotton. As elsewhere in the nation, small Tennessee farmers suffered as wealth created by commerce and manufacturing was concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy business people. Among the causes of unrest were the declining prices of farm products, the growing indebtedness of farmers to merchants and banks, and the discriminatory freight rates imposed on farmers by the railroads. In the 1870s and 1880s American farmers under midwestern leadership formed self-help groups such as the National Grange and Farmers’ Alliances. When these organizations decided that agricultural grievances had to be addressed with political action, the dominance of the Democrats in the South was threatened. This threat was complicated by the fact that the Democrats stood for white power, while the farmers’ groups were willing to attract black farmers to their cause. The movement nationwide was called populism and resulted in an important third political party, the People’s Party. In Tennessee, political groups worked within the Democratic Party, gained strength in the legislature, and in 1890 captured the governorship with the election of Democrat John Buchanan.
The coalition of black and white farmers fell apart after 1896 as a result of intimidation and white susceptibility to racist Democratic appeals. Segregation of the races, through separate public facilities for whites and blacks, became a basic rule in Southern society in the last two decades of the 19th century (see Segregation in the United States). The same Tennessee constitution of 1870 that provided for universal manhood suffrage also required public schools to be segregated. A black educator, Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama, reacted to this erosion of black rights by advocating a policy of racial accommodation. He urged blacks not to emphasize the goals of social integration and political rights but instead to acquire the occupational skills that would facilitate economic advancement. Other black leaders disagreed, but Washington’s prestige and white support of his position caused him to be accepted as the blacks’ chief spokesperson.
A series of strikes broke out in Tennessee in the 1880s, most of them in the textile and the iron and steel industries. Laborers also were unhappy at low wages, especially coal miners in East Tennessee. Another grievance was the use by management of cheap convict labor. In the so-called Miners’ War of 1891 and 1892, armed strikers freed convicts leased to mine operators and burned the stockades where the convicts had been housed. The state militia restored the peace, but eventually the legislature abolished the corrupt convict lease system. The state purchased state coal mines for the convicts to work in and established work facilities at a new, more sophisticated prison at Brushy Mountain near Wartburg.
|I||The 20th Century|
Several hundred thousand men and women from Tennessee were mustered into the military services for wars in the 20th century. The state produced its share of heroes, but none gained greater publicity than Alvin C. York, a farmer from the Cumberland Mountains, in World War I (1914-1918). Killing about 20 German soldiers and helping to capture 132 more in a single engagement, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor. When he returned home to stay, grateful Tennesseans bought him a farm in his native Fentress County.
|I2||The Scopes Trial|
During the 1920s, Tennessee received unwanted publicity as a result of the Scopes trial. The state legislature had enacted a law in 1924 making it a crime to teach the theory of evolution in public schools because it contradicted the account of creation in the Bible. The following year, a high school biology teacher in Dayton, John Thomas Scopes, decided to test the law. He explained the theory to his class and was arrested and prosecuted. The trial involved several distinguished lawyers, including as prosecutor three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and celebrated defense counsel Clarence Darrow. The trial became known as the Monkey Trial because a popular interpretation of the evolution theory was that it meant that humans were descended from monkeys. It attracted nationwide attention to the strength of religious fundamentalism in Tennessee. Scopes was convicted and fined $100, and Tennessee was stigmatized with the nickname “Monkey State.” On appeal, Scopes’s conviction was reversed on the ground that the fine was excessive. The statute remained on the books until 1967.
During World War I the nation’s increased needs stimulated a spurt of industrial growth in Tennessee. In addition, farm prices rose. After the war, prosperity became more elusive, and during the 1920s the state’s farmers and industrial workers faced continuing economic problems. Farm prices were low, and much Tennessee farmland had been exhausted by erosion and overproduction. Poorly organized industrial laborers received low wages and worked under bad conditions. Economic problems worsened during the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s. A bad situation was aggravated by ruinous droughts in the early years of the depression. The state’s recovery was greatly aided by the federal government’s creation in 1933 of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to administer a pioneer program in regional development. The purpose of the TVA was to develop the Tennessee River and its tributaries in the interest of navigation, flood control, and the production and distribution of electricity. The TVA power system annually produces more than 125 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, almost 90 times as much electricity as was generated in the same region in 1933. Average annual home electricity use in the area has grown from 600 kilowatt-hours in 1933 to nearly 15,000 kilowatt-hours in 1995.
|I4||World War II and After|
During World War II (1939-1945), the Tennessee National Guard was among the first to be called into federal service. The guard units marched off to forts in September 1940, even before the United States entered the war. Many of those mustered in from the guard served for the duration of the war, and most of those participated in the Normandy (Normandie) invasion of 1944. Thousands of other soldiers were sent to the Pacific theater to protect American interests against Japan. There they fought at Okinawa and a host of other islands in the Pacific.
The outbreak of the war provided a strong stimulus for industrial development in the state. During the war, the federal government established the Oak Ridge atomic research plants, where scientists in the Manhattan Project secretly worked in the production of atomic bombs. Other defense industries, including aircraft and munitions plants, were located in the state. By the war’s end, total income from industry surpassed agricultural income for the first time.
Population growth and change have been striking during the past half century, especially during the past 25 years when the population grew by 25 percent. After 1945 a shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial and service economy was apparent, and the 1950 census showed that the urban population for the first time exceeded the rural. Cities exhibited remarkable growth while a few remote rural counties experienced declines. While the estimated state population in 1995 exceeded 5 million, Memphis, with more than 600,000, and Nashville, with 500,000, made up more than 20 percent of the total. Unemployment is very low in several of the heavily industrialized counties but is more than 40 percent in some rural counties. The state’s per capita income has grown from $3,000 in 1970 to more than $19,000 in 1995. Rutherford County, in the center of the state, is the fastest growing county in the nation. The influx of foreign capital and industry has brought employment to thousands. Typical are the plants of the Japanese companies Nissan Motors and Bridgestone Tire and Rubber Company near Nashville.
Urban population growth in the early 1960s resulted in city dwellers going to federal court to get more equitable representation in the legislature and other representative bodies. The ultimate result was a renowned 1962 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, Baker v. Carr, ordering reapportionment. As a result of this precedent, city dwellers have gained more equitable representation in many states. In Tennessee this has increased the political strength of urban blacks.
|I5||Civil Rights and Community Relations|
Following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, token school integration was effected throughout the state without official resistance. Some violence occurred, however, in 1956, most notably in Clinton in reaction to efforts to integrate the high school. Integration proceeded unevenly in the 1960s. Civil rights demonstrations in the cities in the 1950s and early 1960s helped bring about desegregation of some public facilities.
Several blacks successfully sought public office. In 1964 A. W. Willis, Jr., of Memphis won election to the state legislature, the first black to do so since the 1880s. In 1966 Dorothy Brown of Nashville became the first black woman to serve in the Tennessee Senate. In 1974 Tennessee’s first black member of the U.S. House of Representatives since Reconstruction was elected from a Memphis district.
In April 1968 civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who had gone to Memphis to support striking city sanitation workers, most of whom were blacks, was assassinated there. His death brought demonstrations and some violent reactions throughout the state and the nation. However, efforts by black and white leaders to improve living and working conditions for the city’s black residents gradually eased the unrest.
In a largely ceremonial act, the Tennessee state legislature ratified the 15th amendment in April 1997. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the measure, which guaranteed the right to vote “regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The amendment was formally passed in February 1870 when it was approved by three quarters of the 37 states then in existence. Tennessee followed several other states that ratified the amendment after the turn of the century.
Other change has been apparent during the past 50 years, particularly in the political arena. The increasing emphasis on industry and the influx of people from other parts of the nation have brought a noticeable shift from Democratic Party control to a strong two-party system. Although the Republican Party has dominated East Tennessee since the Civil War, it is only in the past 25 years that it has gained much strength in the rest of the state. In 1968 the Republicans won control of the lower house of the legislature for the first time in the modern era. In national politics after World War II the Republican presidential candidate carried Tennessee in every election except those of 1948, 1964, 1976, 1992, and 1996.
Winfield Dunn, a Memphis dentist with little political experience, shocked skeptics in 1970 by defeating a member of a respected Democratic family to become the first Republican governor in 50 years. Republican William Brock in the same year became the second Republican senator in 100 years by defeating Senator Albert Gore. Brock joined Howard Baker to give the Republicans control of Tennessee’s Senate seats. After Democratic Governor Ray Blanton went to prison for misconduct in office, Republican Lamar Alexander (1979-1987) brought new ideas and material improvements, as did his successor, Democrat Ned R. McWherter (1987-1995). In the presidential race of 1992, Senator Al Gore, son of Albert Gore, became vice president and was responsible for his party’s winning the electoral votes of Tennessee for the first time since 1976. However, when Gore ran for president in the 2000 election against Republican George W. Bush, he did not win his home state.
Results of the 1994 elections stunned the Democratic Party, bringing Republicans Don Sundquist to the governor’s office and William Frist and Fred Thompson to the U.S. Senate. Republicans won control of Tennessee’s congressional delegation and made serious inroads upon the Democratic-controlled legislature; only a few months after the elections, defections within Democratic ranks gave Republicans control of the state senate.