Mississippi - The Magnolia State

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Capital City:
Jackson
Nickname:
Magnolia State
Motto:
Virtute et Armis (By valor and arms)
Statehood:
December 10, 1817 (20th)
Origin of State's Name:
Possible based on Chippewa Indian words "mici zibi," loosely meaning "great river" or "gathering in of all water"
Largest Cities:
Jackson, Biloxi, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Gulfport
Border States:
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee
Land Area:
46,914 sq. mi.; 31st largest
State Bird:
Mockingbird
State Flower:
Magnolia (magnolia grandiflora)
State Tree:
Magnolia ( magnolia grandiflora)
State Song:
Go Mis-sis-sip-pi

Spelling the name of this state out loud is a catchy way to remember it, and a way to make sure you spell it correctly. The name "Mississippi" comes from an Indian word meaning "great waters" or "father of waters." Mississippi entered the Union as the 20th state in 1817. Considered part of the Deep South, Mississippi, with its rich soil and many rivers, is an agricultural state. The state flower is the fragrant magnolia blossom, and the capital is Jackson.

Biloxi, Mississippi's Blessing of the Fleet

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A ceremonial blessing, given by a local Catholic priest, marks the beginning of the shrimp fishing season. Even though it had its origins in ancient times in Europe, the first Blessing of the Fleet in the Biloxi Bay was given in 1929, and now takes place annually in a colorful procession in the Mississippi Sound. The ceremony begins with the dropping of an evergreen wreath into the Sound in remembrance of fishermen who have been lost at sea. Then a procession of more than 30 shrimp boats files past the anchored "Blessing Boat" where the officiating priest stands, sprinkling holy water on each of the boats and giving a blessing for each one, asking a safe and prosperous fishing season.

Other events have been added, including the Great Biloxi Schooner Race and the Shrimp Festival, featuring a cook-off and dinner, dance, and coronation of the Shrimp King and Queen. The Shrimp King and Queen are crowned at the Shrimp Festival and join the priest as he conducts the Blessing of the Fleet. St. Michael's Catholic Church has been the central sponsor of the Blessing ceremony through the years. Its architecture reflects the town's fishing heritage: a scalloped-shaped roof resembles a huge clam shell, and its stained glass windows depict the apostles as fisherman.

Shrimp and oyster fisherman were originally largely central European immigrants; since the 1980's, most have been Vietnamese. While initially working in the canning plants, many of these immigrants bought their own boats and began harvesting shrimp and oysters from the Mississippi Sound. The 70th annual Blessing of the Fleet took place on Sunday, May 2, 1999. It has become a celebration of the industry that brought thousands of workers to the area in the late 19th century and helped change Biloxi from a quiet resort town to a thriving industrial center.

First Monday in Ripley

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Originally sponsored by the Tippah County government beginning in 1893, these monthly gatherings were publicized as First Monday Sale and Trade Days. A kind of early farmers' market, the event also had the participation of Ripley merchants, who designated the first Monday of each month "grand bargain day." First held on the courthouse square, the event moved to the county fairgrounds in the 1940's and finally to the 30-acre site of an abandoned drive-in movie theater. In recent years the main sale and trade day has shifted to Saturday, and the wares have expanded to include almost anything imaginable; goats, pea fowl, quilts, video games, compact discs, toys, auto parts, wigs, T-shirts, and sunglasses are just a few examples. More than 50,000 people attend, many to buy, sell, or trade, but some simply for the spectacle of it all. Visitors from neighboring states as well as distant ones are regularly seen.

Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival

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Founded in 1978, this annual festival attracts 20,000 people, who come to listen to local, regional and national blues artists and celebrities. As the flagship activity for the Delta Arts Project, the festival is the state's single largest one-day event, and the largest tourist attraction in the state.

The Delta Arts Project is a regional organization created in 1977 by the Mississippi Action for Community Education Incorporated (MACE) to preserve and promulgate the art and cultural heritage of Mississippi Delta people. Its mission is to increase the quality and accessibility of American cultural arts and humanities programming for the predominantly black, rural poor of the delta region.

MACE was established in 1967 by civil rights activists and community organizers to empower African-American poor and disadvantaged citizens by developing their individual and collective capacities to effect socioeconomic improvement. MACE considers the celebration of the history and heritage of African Americans in the delta to be an integral part of empowerment efforts. The centerpiece of cultural preservation is the festival, which began on the back of a flatbed truck in Freed Village. Held the 3rd Saturday each September, the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival is the second oldest blues festival in the country, and the oldest and largest blues festival in the South. Along with music, home style cookin', arts, crafts, and novelties are offered.

The Mississippi Delta, a wedge-shaped region in northern Mississippi between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, is generally believed to be where the blues originated. The area has spawned an enormous number of musicians, many of whom now have international reputations. The conditions that gave birth to the blues-poverty, racism, and inhumane working situations-led many musicians to leave the state as soon as they could. Most traveled North, heading first to Memphis, and then to urban centers, such as Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit. Nonetheless, the blues did not vanish from the Mississippi countryside, and even today the music can still be heard in juke joints in a number of towns.

Music is played on three festival stages, including gospel and jukehouse stages. Special tribute to blues legends is paid during each festivals Among these have been W.C. Handy, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin' Wolf, Son House, Otis Spann, and John Hurt. Performing artists have included B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Bobby Rush, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Sam Myers, Johnny Winter, the Stable Singers, the Nighthawks, Muddy Waters, Sam Chatmon, Furry Lewis and Big Joe Williams.

Pearl River South Singing Convention

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This event brings together singers from four African-American churches in southern Mississippi's rural Marion and Walthall Counties. Founded in 1916, the convention membership meets three times a year for singing practice, worship, and fellowship. Unaccompanied gospel singing using shape note notation, also known as Sacred Harp or fa-so-la, is traditional among black and white Mississippi congregations, but individual styles and musical arrangements vary from one church to another. Shape note singing has its origins in a blend of two diverse streams of music: the urban gospel songs of the late 19th century revival and the choral folk music of the southern states.

Shape note singing as practiced by the Pearl River South Singing Convention uses a notation system of seven geometric shapes, each identified by a syllable ( do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti) representing a musical note. The convention still sings unaccompanied by the piano as it did when it was founded, singing instead "by the counts and the beats," because the music dates to a time before most rural churches had pianos. The Pearl River South singers work hard to carry on their community's tradition of shape note signing so that "the Lord will get the glory."

Source: Library Of Congress
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