Tennessee is a landlocked state in the U.S. South. Its capital, centrally located Nashville, is the heart of the country-music scene, with the long-running Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and a legendary stretch of honky-tonks and dance halls. Memphis, in the far southwest, is the home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, rock-and-roll pioneering Sun Studio and the blues clubs of Beale Street.
Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north, North Carolina to 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 is Nashville, which has a population of 654,610. Memphis is the state’s largest city, with a population of 655,770.
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 American Civil War in 1861. Occupied by Union forces from 1862, it was 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 besides Virginia, and more soldiers for the Union Army than the rest of the Confederacy combined. Beginning during Reconstruction, it had competitive party politics, but a Democratic takeover in the late 1880s resulted in passage of disfranchisement laws that excluded most blacks and many poor whites from voting. This sharply reduced competition in politics in the state until after 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, which was used during World War II.
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 the Appalachian Trail roughly follows the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Other major tourist attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga; Dollywood in Pigeon Forge; Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg; the Parthenon, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville; the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg; Elvis Presley’s Graceland residence and tomb, the Memphis Zoo, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; and Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol.
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