When we think Mississippi, we think white columned mansions, ladies in their flowing hoopskirts, and moss dripping live oaks shading flowering gardens. In fact, Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, still has beautifully preserved gracious plantation homes from another era. Yet, there were a lot more influences that made the state what it is today. In fact, it took nearly 300 years for Mississippi to become Mississippi. Starting with a visit from explorer de Soto in 1540, the area went from Spain, to France, Louisiana, West Florida, the Mississippi Territory, Georgia and was finally severed from Alabama in 1817, to become a US state. As a member of the Confederate States of America, Mississippi seceded in 1861 and rejoined the Union in 1865. During the Antebellum era, the state was the largest cotton producer in the nation. When cotton was king during the 1850s, Mississippi plantation owners—especially those of the Delta and Black Belt central regions—became wealthy due to the high fertility of the soil, the high price of cotton on the international market, and free labor gained through their holding enslaved African Americans. When the Civil War was over, nearly 90% of the bottomland in the Mississippi Delta was still undeveloped, even though today the rich black soil produces bountifully. These coastal plains are in great contrast to heavily forested areas that cover more than half of the state. As you explore the state, enjoy the Mississippi Blues, credited with inventing the blues, learn about Civil Rights, explore heritage of all eras and, best of all, eat your way through the great Southern food on offer.