Portal:Tennessee

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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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The Scopes Trial (Scopes v. State, 152 Tenn. 424, 278 S.W. 57 (Tenn. 1925), often called the "Scopes Monkey Trial") was a legal case that tested a law that forbade the teaching of evolution in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee. The case was a watershed in the creation-evolution controversy.

John Scopes, a high school teacher, was charged on May 5, 1925, with teaching evolution from a chapter in a textbook which showed ideas developed from those set out in Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species. This was a violation of the Butler Act, passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law earlier that year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had offered to defend anyone accused of teaching the theory of evolution in defiance of the Butler Act, and local businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee recruited Scopes to test the law with the expectation that the trial would give Dayton much publicity. The trial pitted two of the preeminent legal minds of the time against one another. William Jennings Bryan headed up the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow spoke for the defense.

The trial, held in the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, then a town of 1,800, brought world-wide news media attention to small-town Tennessee.

The trial jury found Scopes guilty. In 1927 his conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court, but the court found the Butler Act to be constitutional. The statute remained on the books until 1967, when it was repealed by the state legislature.

The famous trial formed the basis for fictionalized accounts in the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, a 1960 Hollywood motion picture, and 1965, 1988 and 1999 television films of the same name. (Read more...)

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John Sevier (23 September 1745 – 25 September 1815) was the only governor of the State of Franklin (1785–1789), the first Governor of the State of Tennessee (1796–1801 and 1803–1809), and a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee from 1811 until his death in 1815. In the American Revolutionary War he was the commander of the Washington County, Tennessee, contingent of the Overmountain Men in the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Sevier was born in New Market, Virginia. Along with his first wife, Sarah Hawkins, and their children, he settled in the Holston River valley in what is now East Tennessee. That area was then claimed by Virginia. Sevier served briefly in Lord Dunmore's War in 1774. In this war John Sevier began to win the reputation as an Indian fighter that would make him a hero in his own day, though making some modern historians uncomfortable with his legacy.

Soon after settling in Northeast Tennessee, Sevier became involved in local politics, helping to organize a petition to North Carolina to become part of that state, and commanding Washington County militia in the Cherokee siege of Fort Caswell (or Fort Watauga) near Sycamore Shoals (present-day Elizabethton, Tennessee). After this battle he was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel, and in this capacity led 240 of over 1,000 militiamen over the Appalachian Mountains to fight against Major Patrick Ferguson and a similar number of British Regulars and Carolina Loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. (Read more...)

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Walter Faulkner, candidate for U.S. Congress in 1938, campaigning with a farmer in Crossville, Tennessee.
(Photo by Dorothea Lange)

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