Before the Civil War, when cotton was king and slavery remained unchallenged, MISSISSIPPI was the nation’s fifth wealthiest state. Since the conflict, it has consistently been the poorest, its dependence on cotton a handicap that leaves it victim to the vagaries of the commodities market. The state has an undeniable pull, especially for blues fans, drawn to sleepy Delta settlements such as Alligator or Yazoo City – a land of scorching sun, parched earth, flooding creeks and thickets of bone-dry evergreens. Clarksdale is heaven for music fans, with its juke joints, festivals and atmospheric accommodation. South of the Delta, the rich woodlands and meadows of central Mississippi are heralded by steep loess bluffs, home to engaging historic towns. Driving is a pleasure, especially along the unspoiled Natchez Trace Parkway – devoid of trucks, buildings and neon signs. The largest city is the capital, Jackson, but there’s little reason to stop here when you could stay in quaint river towns like Vicksburg and Natchez instead. In the north, literary Oxford has a lively college scene and should not be missed; Elvis fans should make a beeline for Tupelo and the King’s humble birthplace.

Brief history

From Reconstruction onwards, Mississippi was known as the greatest bastion of segregation in the South. It witnessed some of the most notorious incidents of the civil rights era, from the lynching of Chicago teenager Emmett Till in 1955 to the murder of three activists during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, which exposed the intimate connections between the Ku Klux Klan and the state’s law enforcement officers. Not until the Seventies did the church bombings and murders end. The legalization of gambling in the 1990s stimulated the economy somewhat, with the hulking casinos of Biloxi and Tunica pulling considerable revenues across the state line from Tennessee and Alabama. The Gulf shoreline suffered appalling devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however, and though most of the casinos had reopened, the coast was still undergoing reconstruction when hit by the BP oil spill in 2010.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The faces of San Francisco: keeping the city's creativity alive

The faces of San Francisco: keeping the city's creativity alive

San Francisco has changed a lot in the last few years. It’s now the buzzing centre of America’s tech culture, and so expensive that most of the artists and …

12 Oct 2018 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
Podcast: the Black Masking Indians of New Orleans

Podcast: the Black Masking Indians of New Orleans

In 18th-century Louisiana, escapee African slaves would make a break for the bayous. Here they might encounter Native Americans and occasionally find asylum wit…

10 Sep 2018 • Rough Guides Editors volume_up Podcast
The best day-trips from San Francisco

The best day-trips from San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge, rows of colourful Victorian houses, trams chuntering up steep hills: San Francisco is a city full of iconic sights. But it's worth teari…

15 Aug 2018 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs