By Jack, Isaiah, and Aiden
Is it true that the first true English settlement was located in the Southeast? Yes. Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607. It became successful because of the Southeast’s mild climate and good soil. Back in the day, the Southeast was an agricultural region. Planters grew tobacco, cotton, and other crops with the labor of African slaves. Goods were shipped from ports on the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi River. When slavery was abolished after the Civil War, the plantations died. Today, farming and shipping are still very important to the 12 states of the Southeast. But, so are lots of other industries. The region produces coal, natural gas, and oil products. Sandy beaches draw tourists to the coastline. Atlanta and other cities have grown into major business centers that are home to people of many different backgrounds.
Outdoors of the southeast
The Southeast region is made up of 12 states. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia. This region has a very long coastline. Five of the states border the Atlantic Ocean. Four sit on the Gulf of Mexico. Florida juts out into the ocean. This peninsula is surrounded by water on three sides. West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas are landlocked by other U.S. states.
Look at the Land
The Southeast has a variety of landforms. The high land of the Appalachians extend from north to south in the region. Some of the mountain ranges in the Appalachian system include the the Cumberland, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Early in U.S. history, the mountains were a barrier between eastern communities and the unexplored West. In 1775, people began crossing the mountains through the Cumberland Gap.
The Appalachian Mountains stretch from Alabama all the way to Canada. That's a long mountain range! The Mississippi River runs through the Southeast. This mighty river is the second longest in the United States. The dirt around it, where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico, is great for farming. The region’s coastline provides citizens and tourists alike access to the sea for fishing and shopping. Sandy beaches on these coastal plains attract many tourists during the year. The Mississippi River begins at Lake Itasca in Minnesota.
The Southeast has a humid climate. Summers are long and hot. The air is humid and wet. Ocean and gulf breezes help cool off coastal areas. But dangerous hurricanes blowing in from the water. In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused almost $200 million in damages in North Carolina. Hurricanes form over the ocean before they hit land. Winters are cool and mild. Precipitation usually falls in the form of rain. Higher areas such as the mountains get some snowfall. Crops grow well in the region’s hot, humid weather, so farms cover the Southeast. The summers also mean a long growing season. This turns into higher profits for farmers. Sometimes, southeastern farmers sometimes experience drought. Their crops didn’t get enough water. The Southeast has a strong agricultural economy.
The climate of the Southeast makes it the perfect home for more plant life than crops. The magnolia tree, with its big white flowers, blooms for a long season. The bald cypress tree is also an interesting sight. These trees can grow in standing water. They flourish in the slow-moving streams called bayous in Louisiana. Spanish moss hangs down from the branches. Bald cypress trees can grow to be 150 feet tall. The Everglades, a swampy region in Florida, has many kinds of plants and animals. The roots of mangrove trees reach down into the water. These roots provide shelter for water wildlife, such as snook, shrimp, and crabs. Above the water, wood storks and other waterbirds nest among the mangroves. The trees also help keep the coast from being worn away by gulf storms.
History of the Southeast
How It All Got Started
Settlers looking for riches arrived in Virginia in 1607. They founded Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. The English had a rough time. Many died from sickness, weather, and lack of food. Then the settlers discovered that tobacco grew well in the soil. Farmers could send the tobacco to England for profit. The colony’s wealth and success quickly grew. Agriculture, or farming, is still important to southeasterners today. More settlers came to the Southeast as Virginia had success with tobacco crops.
The Cotton Boom
The cotton gin brought major changes to southeastern agriculture. After the war, farmers needed a new crop. Soil that had grown nothing but tobacco for years could no longer support tobacco crops. Cotton, which also grew well in the southeastern climate, was difficult to harvest. But Eli Whitney’s invention the cotton gin changed that. This machine quickly separated the plant’s fiber from its seeds. Harvesting cotton became faster and easier. Cotton farming soon stretched from parts of Virginia into Texas. The northern and southern United States disagreed on many issues, especially slavery. The South’s agricultural success depended on enslaved workers. To protect their way of life, some southern states seceded from the United States. They formed the Confederate States of America. The North did not want the South to leave the country. They fought the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. The North won, and President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.
After the War
Famous People of the Southeast
Louis Armstrong was a jazz musician who played the trumpet, and was also a singer. He was born in Louisiana.
Cynthia Rylant is a Newbery award-winning children’s author who has written many stories about life in the Appalachian Mountains. She is the author of the very popular Henry and Mudge series.
Beulah Henry has been credited with more than 100 inventions, including improvements to typewriters, toys, and sewing machines. She was born in Tennessee.
The People of the Southeast
The Southeast includes a variety of cultures. Some are unique to the region. In Louisiana, Cajuns speak a combination of French and other languages. Their cooking uses the area’s resources, including seafood. Rice is another ingredient. It grows in the Southeast’s warm climate. Iron balconies line the streets of the famous French Quarter in New Orleans.
Culture and Visitors
Atlanta is home to more than 400,000 people. Atlanta was destroyed by fire during the Civil War. Most people in the Southeast live in and near cities. Atlanta, the largest city and capital of Georgia, holds half of all of Georgia’s population. In the summer, Southeastern cities get hot. The Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta is a great place to cool off. People enjoy playing in the water of these large fountains in the shape of the Olympic Rings.
Washington, D.C., is not a state; it’s a district. But it is considered part of the Southeast region. Washington, D.C., is home to the U.S. government. The nation’s first president, George Washington, chose to place the city there in 1791. The city was built with organized rows of streets, with the U.S. Capitol is in the center. Many Americans travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the U.S. Capitol and other buildings and monuments.
Many animals live in the lains of the Southeast. Northern river otters are water mammals. Their bodies are for swimming. They have webbed toes, waterproof fur, and long bodies. River otters are rare in some parts of the United States. But they are found in the southeastern region. American alligators are the largest reptiles in North America. They are good hunters. They have strong jaws for eating fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, mammals, and birds. They live in marshes, swamps, and bayous. White ibis are bright white birds. They wade along shores or in marshes on their long, red legs. They search for fish and frogs with their red, curved bills.
The people of the Southeast hold a variety of jobs. Some manufacture goods, such as transportation equipment, and electronics. There are large food and beverage companies, too. Shipping companies are located near ports along the Gulf and Atlantic. Many people work in restaurants, hotels, and businsses that provide services. As it has been throughout history, agriculture is a vital part of the Southeast’s economy. Kansas’s nickname is the Sunflower.
More than half of the world’s people eat rice as a regular part of their diets. Rice requires wet to grow. The Mississippi delta and other river valleys provide a base for agriculture. The Native Americans living in the region farmed along the river valleys. The soil and the warm, wet climate are ideal for farming. Today, farmers grow cotton, tobacco, soybeans, and corn. Arkansas’s location on the delta yields more rice than any U.S. state. Florida is called the Sunshine State. Its hot, sunny weather makes it the perfect place to grow citrus fruits. Florida grows more oranges than any other state. Most of the oranges are squeezed to make orange juice. When the weather becomes cold, frost can destroy the fruit. Farmers sometimes use heaters to keep the fruit from freezing. Harvest season is a busy time of year for citrus growers.
The land of Appalachia is not very suitable for farming. So people in this area looked to the mountains. West Virginia sits about a large natural supply of coal. Miners also dig for coal in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Throughout the nation’s history, this coal has provided fuel for industries, for heating, and to generate electricity. Coal miners work in dark, very tight spaces. Oil is the most important resource in the world. Closer to the Gulf, oil and natural gas are deep underground. People reach these resources by drilling wells. In 2010, a disaster on an oil rig in the Gulf poured millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. The fishing relies on these waters for shrimp, crabs, oysters, and clams. This industry is still recovering from the damage to the ocean.
Millions of people travel to Florida every year to visit the state’s many amusement parks. The tourist industry employs many people in the Southeast. Florida’s amusement parks and beaches are popular vacation spots. Tourists also visit Washington, D.C. The city has many museums and memorials. The town of Williamsburg, Virginia, is nearby. Many of its historic sites have been recreated, so hat visitors can see what life was like long ago.
The Kentucky Derby
Horse farms in the bluegrass region of Kentucky raise thoroughbreds. These horses are built to race. The Kentucky Derby is held every May. This 1.25-mile race is held in Louisville, Kentucky. The oval track first opened in 1875. Races have been held there every year since. Each horse has an owner, a trainer, and a jokey. The jockey rides the horse across the finish line-hopefully in first place (the winner receives a solid gold trophy!)
Disaster in the Gulf
Parts of the levees broke, and most of New Orleans flooded. People climbed onto rooftops to escape the rising waters. The hurricane completely destroyed parts of the city, including homes and schools. Many people died. Mississippi was hit hard, too. All over the region, people’s homes and belongings were completely destroyed. Hurricanes are one of challenges of living in this area. But Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst storms in U.S. history. Hurricane Katrina was one of the most destructive natural disasters ever to hit the United States.
Volunteers traveled to New Orleans from around the country to help rebuild. Rebuilding took lots of time and money. To prevent such a large disaster from happening again, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set to work rebuilding levees and floodwalls. The new levees are taller than the old ones. This reduces the chance of water pouring over the top. New floodwalls reach much deeper into the ground. This makes them more stable and less likely to break. People are once again traveling to New Orleans to enjoy the parades and festivals that the city is known for. The population of New Orleans is not as large as it was before the storm. But many people have been coming back. Construction businesses, government workers, and volunteers have helped rebuild neighborhoods and businesses. Organizations provide money to give business owners, homeless people, and artists and new start. As the city rebuilds, visitors have returned to New Orleans, too. They come to see a part of a region with a history of strength, culture, and unique beauty.
Number of states in the region: 12
Major rivers of the region: Mississippi, Savanna, Tennessee
Major mountain ranges of the region: Appalachian Mountains
Climate: humid subtropical, humid continental
Largest cities: Jacksonville, MS; Charlotte, WF; Memphis, TN