July 2, 2012

Tennessee – “The Volunteer State”



Just the Facts…

bird – Mockingbird
flower – Iris
tree – Yellow Poplar
capital – Nashville
union – 16th state on June 1, 1796
population – about 5 1/2 million


The Basics 

Tennessee was the first state to be formed from federally owned land.  As a colony, North Carolina controlled land that was not included in its state borders.  North Carolina donated this extra land to the federal government as part of its admission into the Union.  This extra land became a federal territory called the Southwest Territory.  As more people settled in the Southwest Territory, they started to organize a government and petitioned for statehood in 1796 as the state of Tennessee.

The name “Tennessee” came from the Yuchi Indian language and means “the meeting place.”   Tennessee is divided up into three main regions – the Blue Ridge Mountains in the eastern part of the state, rolling hills and the Nashville Basin make up the middle of Tennessee (yes, Nashville is in a big huge shallow bowl), and the Mississippi plains dominate western Tennessee.


Its Claim to Fame

Tennessee is all about music!  Its people and cities have influenced many modern music genres like country music, rock-n-roll, and the blues.  Nashville calls itself “Music City, USA,” Memphis calls itself the “Birthplace of the Blues,” and Bristol calls itself the “Birthplace of Country Music.”  And, it is home to famous places like Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry.  The Grand Ole Opry is home to America’s oldest radio show – it has been broadcasting its weekly radio show continually since 1925!  The Opry added live performances after its radio broadcasts became hugely popular.  When a new Grand Ole Opry House was built in 1982, a six foot circle of the old stage was placed within the new stage to link the Opry’s new home to its famous past.

Davy Crockett was born in Tennessee and was a respected woodsman and wilderness guide.    He fought in the War of 1812 as part of Tennessee’s volunteer militia.  The militia’s bravery and heroism in that war earned the state its nickname, the Tennessee Volunteers.  But, Davy Crocket had another side to him – after the War of 1812 he was elected to represent Tennessee in the US House of Representatives.  He was outspoken in Congress, opposing the federal government’s treatment of Native Americans who were being pushed from their land as settlers moved farther and farther west.


What Makes it Tick

Tennessee was the last state to secede during the Civil War and contributed more men to the cause than any other state (like many border states, its men fought on both sides).  Tennessee was a key state because it was between the Union and the deep south and many battles were fought on its ground.  After the Civil War, Tennessee was the first Confederate state to be allowed back into the Union because it took steps on its own to abolish slavery. For example, Tennessee passed an amendment to its state constitution abolishing slavery within its borders. It also voluntarily ratified the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery in America.  As a result, Tennessee was the only Confederate State that did not have a military governor imposed on it during Reconstruction of the South.

Tennessee was hit especially hard in the Great Depression of 1930.  And, thankfully it received some help.  The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was one of the innovative programs created by President Roosevelt as part of his New Deal.  The TVA is unique – it is a corporation owned by the federal government that is dedicated to improving the economic development of the Tennessee Valley.  For example, it brought electricity to the Valley by building dams along its rivers.   In fact, now the TVA provides electricity to seven different states and over nine million people!


If You Visited

If you visited Tennessee, you might go to the Cotton Museum.  It is located in the historic Memphis Cotton Exchange building.  Tennessee was considered to be in the Cotton Belt – that part of southern America where cotton was king.  Farmers in the region who wanted to sell their cotton crop had to bring it to an “exchange,”  where their cotton would be priced and sold.  The Memphis Cotton Exchange was one of the largest cotton exchanges in the south, primarily because it was along the Mississippi River.  Cotton brought to the Memphis Cotton Exchange could be easily transported to down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  From there, the cotton could be shipped to New England and other other parts of America that had large textile industries (where the cotton would be made into fabric and clothing).

Or, you might watch the Duck Parade at the Peabody Hotel in Nashville!  The ducks are a grand tradition – they have been waddling down the red carpet at the Peabody since 1933.  Each day at 11:00 am, the Hotel’s ducks come down from their Royal Duck Palace on the roof and spend the day in the lobby’s fountain.  They take the elevator to the lobby and then parade down their red carpet until they can jump in the fountain.  At 5 pm, they get out of the fountain and waddle back to the elevator, to spend the night on the roof.

Or, you might visit the National Civil Rights Museum.  It is located on the site of the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry Street in Memphis, which is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.   The Museum explores the history of the Civil Rights Movement in America.  Civil rights are rights that people have because they are American citizens – these rights are protected by our government such as the right to vote and equal treatment under the law.   After the Civil War was over, slavery was abolished in America.  But that does not mean that African Americans were treated fairly and equally under the law.  Many southern states created an elaborate system of laws and informal rules designed to segregate whites from African Americans.  During the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans protested against this discrimination and fought for equality.


Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Tennessee? Or, maybe you have visited Tennessee?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Tennessee?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Tennessee to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Tennessee.  Visit these websites to learn more: