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The Tennessee Portal


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Map of Tennessee

Tennessee is a state located in the Southern United States. Tennessee borders eight other states: Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi on the south; and Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west.

Tennessee attained statehood in 1796, becoming the sixteenth state to join the Union.

The state is divided geographically and by law into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. Physiographically, East Tennessee includes the Blue Ridge area characterized by high mountains, including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Ridge and Valley region, in which numerous tributaries join to form the Tennessee River in the Tennessee Valley. The state's third- and fourth-largest cities, Knoxville and Chattanooga, are located in the Tennessee Valley.

To the west of East Tennessee lies the Cumberland Plateau, a region of flat-topped mountains separated by sharp valleys. West of the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee is the Highland Rim, an elevated plain that surrounds the Nashville Basin, characterized by rich, fertile farm country and high natural wildlife diversity. Nashville, the state's capital and second largest city, is in Middle Tennessee.

The landscape of West Tennessee is formed on the Gulf Coastal Plain, ranging from rolling hills just west of the Tennessee River to the region of lowlands, floodplains, and swamp land referred to as the Mississippi Delta region. Memphis, Tennessee's largest city, is on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwestern corner 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.

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A Fisk University class around 1900

Fisk University is a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, which opened its doors to its first classes on January 9, 1866.

Fisk is the home of the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Jubilee Singers started out in the 1870s as a group of traveling students who set out from Nashville to raise money for the school through their singing. After a tour of Europe in 1873 they sent enough money back to Fisk to build Jubilee Hall, the first permanent building in the country built for the education of newly-freed slaves.

Notable Fisk alumni include Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington D.C.; Cora Brown, the first African-American woman to be elected to a state senate; W. E. B. Du Bois, a sociologist and scholar, who was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University; poet Nikki Giovanni; U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings and John Lewis; concert singer Roland Hayes; and Alma Powell, wife of General Colin Powell. (Read more...)

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Alvin York, born to an impoverished farming family in Fentress County, Tennessee on December 13, 1887, became the most decorated American soldier in World War I. For leading an attack against a German machine gun nest during fighting in France, killing 25 German soldiers and capturing 132 others, he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor, Italy's Croce di Guerra, and a War Medal from Montenegro.

When he was first drafted into the United States Army in 1917, York was a conscientious objector who opposed war on religious grounds. However, eventually he became convinced that warfare could be justified.

His heroic actions occurred during a mission to secure a German railroad line on October 8, 1918. York was one of 17 men who infiltrated behind enemy lines and overran the headquarters of a German unit, capturing a large group of German prisoners. The American unit then came under heavy machine gun fire, killing six of the Americans and wounding three others, including the sergeant in command. York, a corporal, took command of the other seven remaining men and succeeded in silencing the machine guns while continuing to guard the prisoners. By the end of the engagement, York and his seven men marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines. York was promoted to sergeant and was awarded several medals for his heroism. (Read more...)

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Nutbush tennessee sign tina turner.jpg

Nutbush, Tennessee is the childhood home of singer Tina Turner.
Image credit: doxTxob (2006)

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