Lower Mississippi Delta Region

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Lower Mississippi Delta region map
Mississippi Bay relief

The Lower Mississippi Delta Region , or "the Delta" for short, refers to the Mississippi Bay ( Mississippi Embayment ) formed in the Quaternary and adjacent areas. It covers the entire lower reaches of the Mississippi in the south-central USA from southern Illinois to the mouth of the Mississippi south of New Orleans . The Department of the Interior has declared a total of 308 counties and parishes in Illinois, Kentucky , Missouri and Tennessee as well as the states of Arkansas , Mississippi and Louisiana as part of the Lower Mississippi Delta region. In addition to the southeastern Ozarks , Crowley's Ridge , the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta (see below) - named after the respective state - and the Mississippi estuary alluvial areas are distinctive landforms.

In contrast, the English term Mississippi Delta refers to the area in the northwest of the state of Mississippi between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, not the mouth region of the river in southern Louisiana, which is called Mississippi River Delta in English . The Mississippi Delta is one of the few rural areas in the United States where long-established African Americans make up a vast majority of the population and an older black folk tradition still lives on. This area and the immediately neighboring areas are considered to be the region of origin of various modern musical styles, including blues , jazz and rock 'n' roll . A special form of music in the region is called Delta Blues .

Geologically, the Lower Mississippi Delta region is defined as the Pleistocene valley of the Mississippi when the sea level was 60 meters below. After the Ice Age, the river filled this valley with sediments. Historically, the region housed the civilization of the Mississippi Culture (English Mississippian Culture). Sociologically, the region is shaped, among other things, by the plantation economy that predominated there in the 19th century with former slaves and a development from " King Cotton " in the 19th century to the Delta Blues of the 20th century. Most of the domestic trade in the United States took place in the delta in the 18th, 19th and into the 20th centuries. The delta was the site of many battles in the Civil War .

The Sunflower River , a typical watercourse in the Mississippi Delta, Mississippi


In 1996, the US Department of the Interior commissioned a study to examine the importance of the delta for American history. The aim should be to show locals and visitors the influence and importance of the Delta especially on the society of today's United States. The rivers, the environment, the cultures and their characteristics, the social and political effects of them and the national economy had major influences on this. In particular, it was about showing that all of these individual components of the delta work together to create the unique importance of the region for the United States.

The river and the environment

Fundamental to the region is the Mississippi , which has shaped the delta from prehistoric times until today. The river defines all aspects of life in the area, from the structure of the settlements to agriculture and the fine arts. For thousands of years the Mississippi and its tributaries have constructed, destroyed, and recreated the landscape of the Delta. The residents were therefore forced to arm themselves against the violence without at the same time having to forego the blessings of the floods they had brought with them.

The ice age led to the meandering course that made for the fertile delta plain. That is why people who farmed crops settled in the region very early on. Recurring floods have caused considerable damage to this day. The river and its tributaries made it possible for local residents to communicate and trade with one another. For a long time, the Mississippi was the only way for the colonial powers to trade with the territories beyond the Appalachians. The Mississippi was never a limit.

The greatest flood of the 20th century occurred in 1927 . It was created by heavy rains on the upper Mississippi and Missouri . The Mississippi levees in the delta did not break; however, the river was meters higher than its southern tributaries ( Arkansas , White River , Yazoo ). It therefore flowed into these rivers, whose dykes broke, and flooded the area protected by the Mississippi dike. This flood caused property damage of around two billion dollars based on today's value. The exact number of people who died is not known to this day; 600,000 people had to be relocated.

The cultures

The history of the delta is the history of its population and their cultural traditions. The merging of the different cultures of the indigenous people, the Europeans, the African slaves , as well as the Caribbean and Asian influence formed a complex and multi-layered society.

The settlement of the delta began 12,000 years before the first Europeans came into contact with the inhabitants in the 16th century. The mounds , mounds of earth as burial sites, temples and living quarters, are a widely visible sign of the early settlement throughout the delta. Their existence is endangered in many places. Long before Europeans came into contact with the original inhabitants of the Delta, they had developed functioning governments, trade relations that stretched across North America, and social structures. Their culture survived despite influences and conflicts with foreign (European) influences, such as the deaths of thousands of people from epidemics to which the locals were not immune, or the forced relocation policy of the United States in the 1830s.

The foundations of African-American culture are many. During the time of slavery, the work of slaves formed the basis of the plantation economy . At the same time, an artistic, literary, technological and musical culture was formed.

Immigration, forced or voluntary, had a major impact on cultures in the Delta. The voluntary colonization of the delta by the French and the forced immigration of the Acadians contributed significantly to the formation of Creole culture. German and Irish immigrants shaped areas along the Mississippi.

Most of these peoples retained their customs, rites, and beliefs. However, a common attitude developed, which is particularly evident in humor, warm hospitality and an elegant way of life.

The culture of the delta is expressed very differently:

Music is a language that reflects life in the Delta like no other form of representation. The music of the Delta has had a significant impact on forms of music around the world. Blues and Zydeco were invented in the Delta - gospel , ragtime , rhythm & blues , rock 'n' roll and country music flourished there.

The architecture in the delta was particularly influenced by French and Spanish colonists. Much of it can be seen in the New Orleans area, but also in their settlement areas in southern Missouri and western Arkansas. Everywhere in the delta one encounters Greek and Italian Renaissance and Queen Anne styles as well as African influences on the architecture.

The most visible symbol of the pre-war south, when cotton cultivation determined not only the economy but also the social structure, politics and culture of this region (“King Cotton”), is the plantation architecture with the spatial connection of classicist plantation houses, slave shelters and farm buildings.

The literature and the arts of the Delta reflect a strong bond with the country. Soil, water and climate form the background for many arts and literary works created in the delta. Often the origin in the written representation of the delta were family relationships and class differences, which were processed into melodramas and tragedies.

Social and Political Influences

Social and economic systems, political currents and government actions have repeatedly shaped life in the delta. Centuries before Europeans came to the country, the Indians had trade relations across the continent, had social and political institutions and waged wars against each other. The disputes triggered by the immigration of Europeans and their land grabbing, by slavery and the displacement of the indigenous population, by the civil war and the reconstruction as well as the civil rights movement are only the very latest after-effects of the human interference in the Mississippi River Delta.

Even the first inhabitants of the delta developed trade relationships, fought for control of the vital mineral resources and built fortifications for their own protection.

The Europeans, through their different political and cultural habits, changed and ended the cultures of the indigenous people. Sometimes the Europeans forced them to leave their ancestral lands. In addition, the diseases introduced by the Europeans decimated the indigenous peoples in the delta.

The Delta impacted the nation through a number of events including Slavery, Underground Railroad , Civil War, Reconstruction, Racial Segregation , the Ku Klux Klan, and the Civil Rights Movement. The delta received special attention from the nation during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Local African-American communities were the origin of many civil rights activists' actions. The civil rights movement turned the Delta into a bulwark for the Democratic Party.

Conflicts of racial, ethnic, cultural and economic differences have always been fought in the Delta and are still ongoing.

Importance to the American economy

The river system ties the region together economically. The United States long used it as the main route of transportation for goods shipped for international trade as well as for supplies to the inland people. Today the river is of paramount importance for agriculture and the petrochemical industry.

The most important part of agriculture was cotton cultivation for more than 150 years. He influenced markets all over the world. The textile industries in England as well as in New England were particularly dependent on cotton from the Lower Mississippi region. On the other hand, because of the high demand, the system of slavery intensified in the region . The cultivation of soybeans , maize and rice , the planting of timber and the establishment of refineries and the chemical industry changed the region's economy lastingly.

Technological advances in the cultivation of cotton, corn, rice and soybeans since the 1950s resulted in a steadily declining number of people employed in agriculture, leaving large numbers of workers unemployed.

In the delta you can see the life of the poor, working people. A kind of dignity of work is reflected in the self-portrayal of the residents and is particularly expressed in folk art and handicrafts.

Travel and tourism are an expanding industry throughout the Lower Mississippi Delta region. As the most important branch of industry in the late 20th century, tourism could become a vehicle for boosting other industries in the Lower Mississippi Delta.

Areas of the Lower Mississippi Delta region

Mississippi Delta, Mississippi

Mississippi Delta SVG Map.svg

The so-called Mississippi Delta in the state of Mississippi is a tourist region of the state of Mississippi. It consists of the former floodplain of the Mississippi, today's alluvial landscape between the Mississippi and the rivers Coldwater, Tallahatchie and Yazoo . In the north, the Mississippi Delta is bounded by a low watershed along the state border with Tennessee, in the east by the high elevation east of the Coldwater, Tallahatchies and Yazoo, which meets the Mississippi at Vicksburg under the name Haynes Bluff.

The tourism association defines the Mississippi Delta more generously. His brochure begins with the statement of the poet David Cohn:

The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg

"(The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel (in Memphis) and extends to Catfish Row in Vicksburg.)"

- David Cohn :

In its brochure, the tourism association describes the Delta as the cradle of blues music, as the living history of the old south reflected in old plantation houses from the pre-Civil War era, and as the land of fateful places in United States history on the battlefields of the Civil War.

Arkansas Delta, Arkansas

Arkansas regions map.png

The so-called Arkansas Delta is one of the six natural regions of the state of Arkansas. It consists of the Mississippi Schwenmmland plain in the eastern flatlands of Arkansas' and is divided in the north by the loess of up to 160 m high heights of the Crowley's Ridge. The Arkansas Delta begins on the Missouri border on both sides of the Crowley Ridge. In the west it is initially bounded by the eastern edge of the Ozark Plateau , then its western limit lies on the ridges between White River and Arkansas and south of Arkansas to the border with Louisiana . The history of the Delta is recorded and updated at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena , Arkansas. The focus of the cultural center is on the music of the delta, as well as the effects of the flooding caused by the Mississippi, particularly the Mississippi flood in 1927 , and tectonic events in the delta.

Estuary floodplain

The estuary floodplain consists of the Atchafalaya Delta with the Atchafalaya swamp and the river of the same name , the course of the Mississippi between the confluence of the Red River and New Orleans including Lake Pontchartrain and the estuary formed by sediments of the Mississippi up to the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Draft Heritage Study and Environmental Assessment
  2. ^ Lower Mississippi Delta Region. National Park Service, March 14, 2001, accessed December 22, 2015 .
  3. ^ Lower Mississippi Delta Region. National Park Service, March 14, 2001, accessed September 14, 2012 (English, Cultures).
  4. ^ Lower Mississippi Delta Region. National Park Service, March 14, 2001, accessed September 14, 2012 (Business).
  5. The Mississippi Delta. Mississippi Delta Tourism Association, 2012, accessed September 1, 2010 (Mississippi Delta Tourism Association).
  6. The Mississippi Delta. Mississippi Delta Tourism Association, 2012, accessed September 1, 2010 (English, poetic description of the spatial extent of the delta).
  7. The Geography of Arkansas'. Department of Arkansas Heritage, 2012, accessed December 22, 2015 (Delta Cultural Center).
  8. The Arkansas Delta. Department of Arkansas Heritage, 2012, accessed September 9, 2010 (Delta Cultural Center).


  • Janelle Collins (Ed.): Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville 2015, ISBN 978-1-55728-687-1 .

Web links