Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. Tennessee is the 36th most extensive and the 17th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north, North Carolinato the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, and Arkansas and Missouri to the west. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Tennessee's capital and second largest city isNashville, which has a population of 601,222. Memphis is the state's largest city, with a population of 653,450.
The state of Tennessee is rooted in the Watauga Association, a 1772 frontier pact generally regarded as the first constitutional government west of the Appalachians. What is now Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later part of the Southwest Territory. Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union and join the Confederacy at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861 and the first state to be readmitted to the Union at the end of the war.
Tennessee furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state, and more soldiers for the Union Army than any other Southern state. Beginning during Reconstruction, it had competitive party politics, but a Democratic takeover in the late 1880s resulted in passage of disfranchisement laws in 1889 that excluded most blacks and many poor whites from voting, sharply reducing competition in politics in the state until passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-20th century. In the 20th century, Tennessee transitioned from an agrarian economy to a more diversified economy, aided by massive federal investment in the Tennessee Valley Authority and, in the early 1940s, the city of Oak Ridge. This city was established to house the Manhattan Project's uranium enrichment facilities, helping to build the world's first atomic bomb.
Tennessee has played a critical role in the development of many forms of American popular music, including rock and roll, blues, country, androckabilly. Beale Street in Memphis is considered by many to be the birthplace of the blues, with musicians such as W.C. Handy performing in its clubs as early as 1909. Memphis is also home to Sun Records, where musicians such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich began their recording careers, and where rock and roll took shape in the 1950s. The 1927 Victor recording sessions in Bristol generally mark the beginning of the country music genre and the rise of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s helped make Nashville the center of the country music recording industry. Three brick-and-mortar museums recognize Tennessee's role in nurturing various forms of popular music: the Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, and the International Rock-A-Billy Museum in Jackson. Moreover, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, an online site recognizing the development of rockabilly in which Tennessee played a crucial role, is based in Nashville.
Tennessee's major industries include agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Poultry, soybeans, and cattle are the state's primary agricultural products, and major manufacturing exports include chemicals, transportation equipment, and electrical equipment. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation's most visited national park, is headquartered in the eastern part of the state, and a section of theAppalachian Trail roughly follows the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Other major tourist attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium inChattanooga; Dollywood in Pigeon Forge; the Parthenon, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville; the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg; and Elvis Presley's Graceland residence and tomb, the Memphis Zoo, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
The earliest variant of the name that became Tennessee was recorded by Captain Juan Pardo, the Spanish explorer, when he and his men passed through an American Indian village named "Tanasqui" in 1567 while traveling inland from South Carolina. In the early 18th century, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or "Tanase") in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. The town was located on a river of the same name (now known as the Little Tennessee River), and appears on maps as early as 1725. It is not known whether this was the same town as the one encountered by Juan Pardo, although recent research suggests that Pardo's "Tanasqui" was located at the confluence of the Pigeon River and the French Broad River, near modern Newport.
The meaning and origin of the word are uncertain. Some accounts suggest it is a Cherokee modification of an earlier Yuchi word. It has been said to mean "meeting place", "winding river", or "river of the great bend". According to James Mooney, the name "can not be analyzed" and its meaning is lost.
The modern spelling, Tennessee, is attributed to James Glen, the governor of South Carolina, who used this spelling in his official correspondence during the 1750s. The spelling was popularized by the publication of Henry Timberlake's "Draught of the Cherokee Country" in 1765. In 1788, North Carolina created "Tennessee County", the third county to be established in what is now Middle Tennessee. (Tennessee County was the predecessor to current-day Montgomery County and Robertson County). When aconstitutional convention met in 1796 to organize a new state out of the Southwest Territory, it adopted "Tennessee" as the name of the state.
Tennessee is known as the "Volunteer State," a nickname earned during the War of 1812 because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee, especially during theBattle of New Orleans.
Interstate 40 crosses the state in a west-east orientation. Its branch interstate highways include I-240 in Memphis; I-440 in Nashville; I-140 from Knoxville to Alcoa and I-640 in Knoxville. I-26, although technically an east-west interstate, runs from the North Carolina border below Johnson Cityto its terminus at Kingsport. I-24 is an east-west interstate that runs cross-state from Chattanooga to Clarksville. Interstate 22 is an east-west interstate that will connect with I-240 or I-269 in Memphis to I-65 in Birmingham. In a north-south orientation are highways I-55, I-65, I-75, and I-81. Interstate 65 crosses the state through Nashville, while Interstate 75 serves Chattanooga and Knoxville and Interstate 55 serves Memphis. Interstate 81 enters the state at Bristol and terminates at its junction with I-40 near Dandridge. I-155 is a branch highway from I-55. The only spur highway of I-75 in Tennessee is I-275, which is in Knoxville.
Tennessee has a rich variety of public, private, charter, and specialized education facilities ranging from pre-school through university education.
Public higher education is under the oversight of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission which provides guidance to two public university systems – the University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents. In addition a number of private colleges and universities are located throughout the state.