History of Arkansas
The first person from Europe that came to the territory of today’s Arkansas was an explorer from Spain Hernando de Soto. Arkansas is just one of several states the territory of which came into the possession of US in the Louisiana Purchase. The name that it has today has been given to it by either French or Spanish explorers that came before the territory was US soil. A number of Native American tribes lived on this land. Among them were Caddo, Osage and Quapaw nations. Five Civilized Tribes also settled here after they were forced to move to the west.
Arkansas is the 25th state to be admitted to the US in 1836, and it was the 13th slave state. Its delta attracted a large number of settlers who were interested in farming cotton; this is why the most slaves were concentrated in this region of the state.
Arkansas did a lot to help Texas in their independence war with Mexico, both with manpower and supplies. The city of Washington took active involvement in the Texas Revolution that began in 1835 and lasted for a year. It is even possible that Sam Houston did some of the planning for the revolt in one of Washington taverns. Once the actual fighting began, a great number of Arkansas citizens volunteered to take part in the battles. Washington was also the meeting point for troops that intended to take part in the Mexican-American War in 1846. The Governor issued a proclamation that encouraged the men of Arkansas to gather an infantry battalion and a cavalry regiment for the war effort. The proclamation resulted in the gathering of ten companies of men that were to become the first Arkansas Cavalry Regiment.
It is recorded that there were 111,115 enslaved African Americans, or 25% of the current state population in the Mississippi Delta in 1860. This was where slave labor was most needed because of the numerous cotton fields. Arkansas was reluctant to join the Confederate States until Abraham Lincoln began gathering troops that were to react to the Confederation army’s attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederate States. A number of smaller battles of Civil War were fought on the territory of this state. It was finally restored to the Union in 1868. The new laws disenfranchised the former Confederates and offered a public education system.
Republican Party was dominant in the region, but that didn’t prevent their inner struggles to escalate into a conflict called the Brooks-Baxter War in 1874. After the intervention of Ulysses S. Grant the conflict was resolved and the new constitution that re-enfranchised the former Confederates was ratified. The period after Reconstruction was marked by the arrival of significant number of immigrants, often of Italian or Chinese origin, who came in order to work on the cotton farms. That kind of labor rarely held their interest for long and they usually moved on to other enterprises rather quickly. It was also not uncommon for people from eastern Europe to come to this region, which helped in making the Mississippi Delta a very diverse region.
Railroads made it possible for farmers to sell their products on new markets. They have also helped with the development of different parts of the region. In just a few years, the population of one of such regions, Eureka Springs, grew to the number of 10,000 people. The city became the 4th largest in the state and turned into a popular tourist attraction.
The agricultural depression that was worsening in the late 1880s prompted the creation of Populist movements that lead to the creation of different interracial coalitions. The Democrats who wanted to remain the dominant party took the cue from other Southern states and decided to pass a number of laws that would result in the disenfranchisement of poor white people and African Americans. This was meant to stop them from joining forces, and one of the ways in which this was achieved was by including literacy requirements for those who wanted to vote. This has left a number of people denied of that right as somewhere around a quarter of Arkansas population at the time was illiterate. This and similar laws have helped them keep Arkansas a one party state until the mid sixties and the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
An important victory over segregation was won in 1954 in Arkansas when its Supreme Court decided that the nine African American students who were trying to enroll into a previously all-white school were to be given protection while entering the school. The state’s governor opposed this integration and even ignored attempts of contact made by the US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the end, the president had had to send 1000 troops to protect the students. The state Governor tried to fight this by closing the schools for the rest of the school year, but by 1959 the high schools in High Rock were nevertheless fully integrated.
In 2010 the GSP of Arkansas amounted to $103 billion, and its per capita income calculated in 2004 was $35,295. State has a number of agricultural products such as eggs and poultry, sorghum, cotton, soybeans, cattle, hogs, rice and milk and dairy products. Industrial products of the state include electrics, food processing, metal and paper products, vanadium, bromine and different machinery. The unemployment rate in 2011 was 8.3%.
The northern part of the state has been experiencing significant economic development due to the fact that the headquarters of a number of global companies are located in that region. One of the most noteworthy companies situated there is definitely Wal-Mart, which in 2007 was the company with the highest revenue in the world. Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt also have headquarters in this part of Arkansas. Recent years have also seen the increase in automobile parts factories in the eastern part of the state. Another important aspect of the economy of Arkansas is tourism. It was during the tourism advertising campaign that the state has gained its current nickname ‘the Natural State’. Forbes has ranked Arkansas as 9th for business cost, 22nd for regulatory environment, 21st for the best state for business and 40th for labor. The 5 largest employers in Arkansas are currently: The State of Arkansas, Wal-Mart Store, Inc, Federal government, Tyson Foods, Inc. and Baptist Health.
The state is ranked third when it comes to aquaculture of channel catfish. Somewhere around 19,000 acres have been set apart for catfish farming. This industry peaked in 2002 when there were 38,000 acres used for this purpose. In 2007 this state has seen a revenue of $71.5 million from this industry, the output in this state amounted to 16% of national catfish output. Arkansas was the first state to start with commercial catfish farming near the end of 1950s. Farmers usually turned to catfish farming as a source of additional income during the lows in cotton and soy beans industries. Banks supported their efforts with loans.
Income tax in Arkansas comes in one of six brackets ranging from 1% to 7%. There are some benefits for certain demographics, though. For instance, military personnel are not paying tax on the first $9,000 of their pay, while the officers are not paying tax on the first $6,000 of the pay. Retired persons are not paying taxes on their Social Security nor on the first $6,000 of their pensions. Residents of Texarkana, on the either side of the Texas-Arkansas border are completely exempt from paying income taxes. The sales and use taxes in Arkansas are currently 6%. One of the peculiarities regarding the taxation in Arkansas is the fact that some service providers are expected to pay sales taxes. This includes kennel and pet grooming services, towing and wrecking services, tattooing and body piercing services, laundry and dry cleaning, alarm monitoring as well as pest control services.
Besides the usual sales taxes, counties or cites have the option of adding different types of localized use or sale taxes, provided that the voters give them a green light. There are currently more than 300 of these special taxes. One of the limitations that apply to that type of taxes is that they can’t go higher than $25 for every 1% of the tax. State collects these taxes and then distributes them back to the communities in which they were collected on the monthly basis. There is also the benefit of exemptions for electricity usage that is given to the households the annual income of which does not exceed $12,000. The sale of different types of alcohol will incur different additional taxes. When property taxes are being calculated only 20% of the value of real and personal property is used as the base for the tax.
Geography and Climate in Arkansas
Most of the eastern border of Arkansas is formed by the Mississippi River, except in several places where the river meanders from the established border lines. Arkansas has Louisiana to the south, Missouri to the north, Tennessee and Mississippi on the east and Texas and Oklahoma to the west. The state is abundant in fertile soil, lush forests as well as rivers and lakes. Arkansas Delta is the region with most fertile soil created by the flooding of Mississippi. This is what made this area a popular location for cotton farming and agriculture in general. This region is also marked by Crowley’s Ridge, an interesting formation of 250 to 500 feet high hills that rise above the plain.
The northern part of the state is a section of the Ozark Plateau and it contains Ozark Mountains. The eastern and western regions of Arkansas have been dubbed the Lowlands. Along with Ozark Mountains, the Ouachita Mountains that extend to the south are forming a section of the US interior Highlands region, which is the only larger mountainous region between the Appalachian and the Rocky Mountains. The highest point in the state, Mount Magazine rises to the height of 2,753 feet and is a part of Ouachita Mountains.
The state is abundant in natural caves, the best known of which are Blanchard Springs Caverns. Archeologists have discovered more than 43.000 sites that provided information on the Native American way of life and customs. Arkansas is the only US state where diamonds are being mined, although not on the large scale. This state also has a great number of national parks such as Buffalo National River, Hot Springs National Park and Pea Ridge National Military Park, to name just a few. Arkansas also holds a section of the Trail of Tears. Around 150,000 acres of Arkansas are considered wilderness areas. Mechanized vehicles are not allowed in these regions, but these parts of the state are made available for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.
The climate in most parts of Arkansas is subtropical, but the climate of the higher northern regions is closer to humid continental. Climate in the state is influenced by the Gulf of Mexico. Arkansas summers are usually hot and humid, while the winters tend to be rather cold and dry. The region around Little Rock has temperature which averages between 51 and 32 F in January and 93 and 73 F in July. Siloam Springs that are located in the northwest of Arkansas are averaging between 44 and 23 F in the winter months and 89 and 69 F in the summer.
The south is usually drier than the north, with the average yearly rainfall in the state being somewhere between 40 and 60 inches. Snow is not uncommon, especially in the north, mostly due to the elevation of the mountains found there. The highest temperature recorded in Arkansas is 120 F. It was recorded at Ozark in 1936. The lowest temperature, which was recorded in 1905 at Pond, was -29 F. Arkansas is known for often violent weather conditions such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail and ice storms. Being between the Gulf States and the Great Plains, Arkansas averages 60 days with thunderstorms per year. The state has also been a victim of some of the most destructive tornadoes in the history of United States. Arkansas is too far from the coast to have hurricanes, but not far enough to be excluded from occasional heavy downpours.
Population of Arkansas
In 2006 the population of Arkansas was determined to consist of 2,810,872 people, which presented an increase of 1.1% or 105,756 people since the year 2000. This was a combination of the natural increase of 52,214 people which was gained by deducting 146,586 deaths from 198,800 births, and the net migrations increase amounting to 57,611 people. At the time, 48.8% of the population was male, and the remaining 51.2% female. Population density was 51.3 people per square mile. In 2010 Arkansas had the population of 2,937,979 people, which was an increase of 0.76% when compared to the previous year. Current population density of Arkansas is 56.4 people per square mile.
In 2010 the population consisted of 77.5% non-Hispanic white people, 2% Hispanic whites, 14.3% African American, 0.7% American and Alaskan Native, 1.2% Asian, 0.2% Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander and 4.1% of other races or combinations of two or more races. The largest ancestry groups were 15.5% African American, 13.6% Irish, 12.5% German, 11.1% American, 10.3% English, 2.4% French, 2.1% Scotch Irish, 1.9% Dutch, 1.9% Scottish and 1.7% Italian. People of these ancestry groups are often localized in certain regions. Americans with European ancestry are usually found in the Ozarks and in the central parts of Arkansas. African Americans mostly inhabit the eastern and southern regions, while those with English ancestors are equally distributed through the state. English is the language with most speakers (93.8%), Spanish is spoken by 4.5% of the population, Indo-European languages are spoken in the homes of 0.7% of the population, Asian by 0.8% and other languages by 0.2%.
Like a number of other southern stats, Arkansas is a part of the Bible Belt, and the most of the people are Protestant. Christians compose 86% of the state’s population, of which 78% are Protestants, 7% Roman Catholic, less than a percent are of Eastern Orthodox denomination and also less than one percent belongs to some of the other Christian denominations. Some 14% of the inhabitants of Arkansas are non-religious, less than a percent belongs to some other religion, and there are less than 1% of both Jewish and Muslim people in the state. In 2000 the denominations with the highest number of followers were the Southern Baptist Convention with 665,307 followers, United Methodist Church with 179,383 and the Roman Catholic Church with 115,967 believers.
Arkansas Government and Legislature
The political scene on Arkansas is interesting in a number of ways. First of all, Arkansas is one of just a few southern states in which the Democratic Party holds the majority in the General Assembly and in which the larger portion of offices, both local and statewide, are held by Democrats. Arkansas was also the only state in 1992 that gave the majority of votes to just one candidate in the presidential elections, while all of the other states have split their votes on three candidates. That candidate was Arkansas born Bill Clinton. Finally, it is the only state that found it necessary to create a law that would specify the pronunciation of its name.
The Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas is not elected with the Governor, which means that the two of them can be members of different political parties. Officials are elected for four year terms and they can only serve two full terms, with the allowance for a partial term before the first full one was served. Because of the difficulties that were once presented by traversing larger distances, some of the counties in Arkansas have two county seats on the opposite ends of the counties, instead of the traditional one seat. Even though the distances are no longer a problem, there have been no attempts to change this arrangement. There was also a time in Arkansas when atheists were not able to hold public office or even testify in court. The ruling of the Supreme Court in 1961 in Maryland, a state which had a similar regulation, determined that this condition violates both the First and the Fourteenth Amendment, and that it is not enforceable. This is why no one has tried to enforce it in Arkansas, as it would be immediately turned down by the court.
Transportation in Arkansas
Arkansas currently has eight interstate highways and plans for building four more of them, as well as 20 US Routes and more than 200 state highways. The state has four larger airports: Little Rock National Airport, Fort Smith Regional Airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and Texarkana Regional Airport. The Texas Eagle passenger train connects the stations in Little Rock, Texarkana, Walnut Ridge, Arkadelphia and Malvern. There are also more than 20 freight railroads in the state.