Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Arkansas shares a border with six states, with its eastern border largely defined by the Mississippi River. Its diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River. The capital and most populous city is Little Rock, located in the central portion of the state.
The name Arkansas derives from the same root as the name for the State of Kansas. The Kansas tribe of American Indians are closely associated with the Sioux tribes. The word is a French pronunciation of a Quapaw (a related "Kaw" tribe) word meaning "land of downriver people" or "people of the south wind". The pronunciation of Arkansas (ar-kan-saw) was made official by an act of the state legislature in 1881 after a dispute between the two U.S. Senators from Arkansas. One wanted to pronounce the name ar-kán-sas and the other wanted ár-kan-saw.
Arkansas is a land of mountains and valleys, thick forests and fertile plains. The so-called Lowlands are better known by names of their two regions, the Delta and the Grand Prairie. The Arkansas Delta is a flat landscape of rich alluvial soils formed by repeated flooding of the adjacent Mississippi. Further away from the river, in the southeast portion of the state, the Grand Prairie consists of a more undulating landscape. Both are fertile agricultural areas.
The Delta region is bisected by an unusual geological formation known as Crowley's Ridge. A narrow band of rolling hills, Crowley's Ridge rises from 250 to above the surrounding alluvial plain and underlies many of the major towns of eastern Arkansas.
Northwest Arkansas is part of the Ozark Plateau including the Boston Mountains, to the south are the Ouachita Mountains and these regions are divided by the Arkansas River; the southern and eastern parts of Arkansas are called the Lowlands. All of these mountains ranges are part of the U.S. Interior Highlands region, the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. The highest point in the state is Mount Magazine in the Ozark Mountains; it rises to above sea level.
Arkansas is home to many caves, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns. It is also the first U.S. state in which diamonds were found (near Murfreesboro). Arkansas has the only operating diamond mine in the United States.
Arkansas is home to many areas protected by the National Park System. These include:
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail also runs through Arkansas.
Despite its subtropical climate, Arkansas is known for occasional extreme weather. Between both the Great Plains and the Gulf States, Arkansas receives around 60 days of thunderstorms. As a part of Tornado Alley, tornadoes are not an uncommon occurrence in Arkansas, and a few of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history have struck the state. While being sufficiently away from the coast to be safe from a direct hit from a hurricane, Arkansas can often get the remnants of a tropical system which dumps tremendous amounts of rain in a short time and often spawns smaller tornadoes.
High water pouring down the White River caused historic flooding in cities along its path in eastern Arkansas. The river could top levels recorded in a devastating flood in 1982. Arkansas emergency management told early estimates for statewide damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure was at $2 million, though that figure was expected to grow.
|Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Various Arkansas Cities|
The Territory of Arkansaw was organized on July 4, 1819, and on June 15, 1836, the State of Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the 25th state and the 13th slave state. Planters settled in the Delta to cultivate cotton, and this was the area of the state where most enslaved African Americans were held. Other areas had more subsistence farmers and mixed farming.
Arkansas played a key role in aiding Texas in its war for independence with Mexico, sending troops and materials to Texas to help fight the war. The proximity of the city of Washington to the Texas border involved the town in the Texas Revolution of 1835-36. Some evidence suggests Sam Houston and his compatriots planned the revolt in a tavern at Washington in 1834. When the fighting began, a stream of volunteers from Arkansas and the southeastern states flowed through the town toward the Texas battle fields. When the Mexican-American War began in 1846, Washington became a rendezvous for volunteer troops. Governor Thomas S. Drew issued a proclamation calling on the state to furnish one regiment of cavalry and one battalion of infantry to join the United States Army. Ten companies of men assembled here where they were formed into the first Regiment of Arkansas Cavalry.
The state developed a cotton culture in the east in lands of the Mississippi Delta. This was where enslaved labor was used most extensively, as planters brought with them or imported slaves from the Upper South. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, enslaved African Americans numbered 111,115 people, just over 25% of the state's population.
Arkansas refused to join the Confederate States of America until after United States President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to respond to the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by Confederate forces. The State of Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861. While not often cited in historical accounts, the state was the scene of numerous small-scale battles during the American Civil War. Arkansans of note during the Civil War included Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne. Considered by many to be one of the most brilliant Confederate division commanders of the war, Cleburne was often referred to as "The Stonewall of the West." Also of note was Major General Thomas C. Hindman. A former United States Representative, Hindman commanded Confederate forces at the Battle of Cane Hill and Battle of Prairie Grove.
Under the Military Reconstruction Act, Congress readmitted Arkansas in June 1868. The Reconstruction legislature established universal male suffrage, a public education system, and other general issues to improve the state and help more of the population. Years later, as conservative Democrats began to regain political power, the legislature passed a new constitution in 1874.
In 1874, the Brooks-Baxter War, a political struggle between factions of the Republican Party shook Little Rock and the state governorship. It was settled only when President Ulysses S. Grant ordered Joseph Brooks to disperse his militant supporters.
In 1881, the Arkansas state legislature enacted a bill that adopted an official pronunciation, to combat a controversy then raging around the proper pronunciation of the state's name. (See Law and Government below).
After Reconstruction the state began to receive more immigrants and migrants. Some were originally recruited to work as farm labor in the developing Delta region. Some immigration continued into the early decades of the 20th century. The state witnessed numbers of Chinese, Italian, Syrian and immigrants from eastern Europe who made the Delta more diverse than the rest of the state. In addition, some black migrants moved into the area because of opportunities to develop the bottomlands and own their own property. The Chinese and Italians moved quickly out of positions as farm labor. Many Chinese became such successful merchants in small towns that they were able to educate their children at college.
Construction of railroads enabled more farmers to get their products to market. It also brought new development into different parts of the state, including the Ozarks. In a few years at the end of the 19th century, for instance, Eureka Springs in Carroll County grew to 10,000 people, having become a tourist destination and the fourth largest city of the state. It featured newly constructed, elegant resort hotels and spas planned around its springs. The town's attractions included horse racing and other entertainment. It appealed to a wide variety of classes, becoming almost as popular as Hot Springs.
In the late 1880s, the worsening agricultural depression catalyzed Populist and third party movements, leading to interracial coalitions. Struggling to stay in power, in the 1890s the Democrats in Arkansas followed other Southern states in passing legislation and constitutional amendments that disfranchised blacks and poor whites. Democrats wanted to prevent their alliance. In 1891 state legislators passed a requirement for a literacy test, knowing that many blacks and whites would be excluded, at a time when more than 25% of the population could neither read nor write. In 1892 the state constitution was amended to include a poll tax and related residency requirements, which adversely affected poor people and forced them from electoral rolls. By 1900 the Democratic Party expanded use of the white primary in county and state elections, further denying blacks a part in the political process, as only in the primary was there any competition. The state was one-party for decades.
Between 1905 and 1911, Arkansas began to receive a small migration of German, Slovak, and Irish immigrants. The German and Slovak peoples settled in the eastern part of the state known as the Prairie, and the Irish founded small communities in the southeast part of the state. The Germans were mostly Catholic and the Slovaks were Lutheran. The Irish were mostly Protestant from Ulster, northern Ireland.
After the case of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954, the Little Rock Nine brought Arkansas to national attention when the Federal government intervened to protect African-American students trying to integrate a high school in the Arkansas capital. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to aid segregationists in preventing nine African-American students from enrolling at Little Rock's Central High School. After attempting three times to contact Faubus, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent 1000 paratroops to escort and protect the African-American students as they entered school on September 25, 1957. In defiance of federal court orders to integrate, the governor and city of Little Rock decided to close the high schools for the remainder of the school year. By the fall of 1959, the Little Rock high schools were completely integrated.
People of European ancestry have a strong presence in the northwestern Ozarks and the central part of the state. African Americans live mainly in the fertile southern and eastern parts of the state. Arkansans of Irish, English and German ancestry are mostly found in the far northwestern Ozarks near the Missouri border. Ancestors of Irish in the Ozarks were chiefly Scots-Irish, Protestants from Northern Ireland and the Scottish lowlands, part of the largest group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland before the American Revolution. Scots-Irish settled throughout the backcountry of the South and in the more mountainous areas.
As of 2000, 95.07% of Arkansas residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 3.31% speak Spanish. German is the third most spoken language at 0.299%, followed by French at 0.291% and Vietnamese at 0.13%.
In 2006, Arkansas has a larger percentage of tobacco smokers than the national average, with 24% of adults smoking.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Southern Baptist Convention with 665,307; the United Methodist Church with 179,383; the Roman Catholic Church with 115,967; and the American Baptist Association with 115,916.
The state's gross domestic product for 2005 was $87 billion. Its per capita household median income (in current dollars) for 2004 was $35,295, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state's agriculture outputs are poultry and eggs, soybeans, sorghum, cattle, cotton, rice, hogs, and milk. Its industrial outputs are food processing, electric equipment, fabricated metal products, machinery, paper products, bromine, and vanadium.
Several global companies are headquartered in the northwest corner of Arkansas, including Wal-Mart (the world's largest public corporation by revenue in 2007), J.B. Hunt and Tyson Foods. This area of the state has experienced an economic boom since the 1970s as a result.
Tourism is also very important to the Arkansas economy; the official state nickname "The Natural State" was originally created (as "Arkansas Is A Natural") for state tourism advertising in the 1970s, and is still regularly used to this day.
According to Forbes.com Arkansas currently ranks 21st for The Best States for Business, 9th for Business Cost, 40th for Labor, 22nd for Regulatory Environment, 17th for Economic Climate, 9th for Growth Prospects, 34th in Gross Domestic Product, and positive economic change of 3.8% or ranked 22nd.
Arkansas imposes a state income tax with six brackets, ranging from 1.0% to 7.0%. The first $9,000 of military pay of enlisted personnel is exempt from Arkansas tax; officers do not have to pay state income tax on the first $6,000 of their military pay. Retirees pay no tax on Social Security, or on the first $6,000 in gain on their pensions (in addition to recovery of cost basis). Residents of Texarkana, Arkansas are exempt from Arkansas income tax; wages and business income earned there by residents of Texarkana, Texas are also exempt. Arkansas's gross receipts (sales) tax and compensating (use) tax rate is currently 6%. The state has also mandated that various services be subject to sales tax collection. They include wrecker and towing services; dry cleaning and laundry; body piercing, tattooing and electrolysis; pest control; security and alarm monitoring; self-storage facilities; boat storage and docking; and pet grooming and kennel services.
In addition to the state sales tax, there are more than 300 local taxes in Arkansas. Cities and counties have the authority to enact additional local sales and use taxes if they are passed by the voters in their area. These local taxes have a ceiling or cap; they cannot exceed $25 for each 1% of tax assessed. These additional taxes are collected by the state, which distributes the money back to the local jurisdictions monthly. Low-income taxpayers with a total annual household income of less than $12,000 are permitted a sales tax exemption for electricity usage.
Sales of alcoholic beverages account for added taxes. A 10% supplemental mixed drink tax is imposed on the sale of alcoholic beverages (excluding beer) at restaurants. A 4% tax is due on the sale of all mixed drinks (except beer and wine) sold for "on-premises" consumption. And a 3% tax is due on beer sold for off-premises consumption.
Property taxes are assessed on real and personal property; only 20% of the value is used as the tax base.
Both of Arkansas's U.S. Senators are Democrats: Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. The state has four seats in U.S. House of Representatives. Three seats are held by Democrats—Marion Berry (map), Vic Snyder (map), and Mike Ross (map). The state's lone Republican congressman is John Boozman (map).
|2004||54.31% 572,898||44.55% 469,953|
|2000||51.31% 472,940||45.86% 422,768|
|1996||36.80% 325,416||53.74% 475,171|
|1992||35.48% 337,324||53.21% 505,823|
|1988||56.37% 466,578||42.19% 349,237|
|1984||60.47% 534,774||38.29% 338,646|
|1980||48.13% 403,164||47.52% 398,041|
|1976||34.93% 268,753||64.94% 499,614|
|1972||68.82% 445,751||30.71% 198,899|
|1968*||31.01% 189,062||30.33% 184,901|
|1964||43.41% 243,264||56.06% 314,197|
|1960||43.06% 184,508||50.19% 215,049|
|*State won by George Wallace|
of the American Independent Party,
at 38.65%, or 235,627 votes
The Democratic Party holds super-majority status in the Arkansas General Assembly. A majority of local and statewide offices are also held by Democrats. This is rare in the modern South, where a majority of statewide offices are held by Republicans. Arkansas had the distinction in 1992 of being the only state in the country to give the majority of its vote to a single candidate in the presidential election—native son Bill Clinton—while every other state's electoral votes were won by pluralities of the vote among the three candidates. In 2004, George W. Bush won the state of Arkansas by 9 points, leading some to speculate that the state was shifting toward the Republicans. In 2006, however, Democrats were elected to all statewide offices by the voters in a Democratic sweep that included the Arkansas Democratic Party regaining the governorship.
Most Republican strength lies mainly in northwest Arkansas in the areas around Fort Smith and Bentonville, and especially in North Central Arkansas around the Mountain Home area where voters have often voted 90 percent Republican. The rest of the state is strongly Democratic, especially Little Rock and the areas along the Mississippi River. Arkansas has only elected one Republican to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, Tim Hutchinson, who was defeated after one term by Mark Pryor. The General Assembly has not been controlled by the Republican Party since Reconstruction and is the fourth most heavily Democratic Legislature in the country, after Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Connecticut. Arkansas is also the only state among the states of the former Confederacy that sends two Democrats to the U.S. Senate and the overwhelming majority of registered voters in the state are Democrats.
However, the Democratic Party of Arkansas is more conservative than the national entity. Two of Arkansas' three Democratic Representatives are members of the Blue Dog Coalition, which tends to be more pro-business, pro-military, and socially conservative than the center-left Democratic mainstream. The state is socially conservative its voters passed a ban on gay marriage with 74% voting yes, the Arkansas Constitution protects right to work, and the state is one of a handful that has legislation on its books banning abortion in the event Roe vs. Wade is ever overturned.
In Arkansas, the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and thus can be from a different political party.
Each officer's term is four years long. Office holders are term-limited to two full terms plus any partial terms prior to the first full term. Arkansas gubernatorial terms became four years with the 1986 general election; before this, the terms were two years long.
Some of Arkansas's counties have two county seats, as opposed to the usual one seat. The arrangement dates back to when travel was extremely difficult in the state. The seats are usually on opposite sides of the county. Though travel is no longer the difficulty it once was, there are few efforts to eliminate the two seat arrangement where it exists, since the county seat is a source of pride (and jobs) to the city involved.
Arkansas is the only state to specify the pronunciation of its name by law (AR-kan-saw). This is in response to residents of Kansas who used to pronounce the state's name as ar-KANSAS.
Article 19 (Miscellaneous Provisions), Item 1 in the Arkansas Constitution is entitled "Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness," and states that "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court," despite unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) that a similar requirement in Maryland violated protections under First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan area is increasingly important to the state and its economy. The US Census estimated the population of the MSA to be 435,714 in 2007, up from 347,045 in 2000, making it one of the fastest growing in the nation.
See also Arkansas Metropolitan Areas.
Largest Cities Above 10,000 as of 2007
|Rank||City||2007-2008 Pop.||Region||Pop. +/- since '06|
|1.||Little Rock||187,452||Central||+ 2,952|
|2.||Fort Smith||84,375||Northwest||+ 4,107|
|6.||North Little Rock||59,400||Central||+ 504|
|9.||Pine Bluff||50,667||Southeast||- 1,091|
|10.||Hot Springs||39,064||Southwest||+ 1,217|
|15.||West Memphis||27,400||Northeast||- 1,692|
|17.||Bella Vista||25,219||Northwest||+ 1,219|
|21.||Van Buren||22,001||Northwest||+ 1,193|
|23.||El Dorado||19,891||Southeast||- 440|
|27.||Siloam Springs||14,480||Northwest||+ 490|
|28.||Forrest City||13,831||Northeast||- 381|
|30.||Mountain Home||12,457||Northwest||+ 242|
|31.||Helena-West Helena||12,246||Southeast||- 751|
Biggest Population Gainers 1. Springdale + 6,791 2. Fayetteville + 5,050 3. Fort Smith + 4,107 4. Jonesboro + 3,751 5. Little Rock + 2,952 6. Rogers + 2,772 7. Bentonville + 1,895 8. Conway + 1,672 9. Magnolia + 1,288 10.Bella Vista + 1,219
Biggest Population Losers 1. West Memphis - 1,692 2. Pine Bluff - 1,091 3. Helena-W.Helena - 751 4. Blytheville - 573 5. El Dorado - 440 6. Forest City - 381 7. Camden - 309 8. Arkadelphia - 15
Names in bold have populations greater than 20,000.
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