Part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, Arkansas became a separate territory in 1819 and achieved statehood in 1836. A slave state, Arkansas became the ninth state to secede from the union and join the Confederate States of America. Today Arkansas ranks 27th among the 50 states in area, but, except for Louisiana and Hawaii, it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi River. Its neighbors are Missouri to the north, Tennessee and Mississippi to the east, Louisiana to the south, Texas to the southwest and Oklahoma to the west. The name Arkansas was used by the early French explorers to refer to the Quapaw people—a prominent indigenous group in the area—and to the river along which they settled. The term was likely a corruption of akansea, the word applied to the Quapaw by another local indigenous community, the Illinois. Little Rock, the state capital, is located in the central part of the state. In 1957, Little Rock Central High School became the focus of national attention when federal troops were deployed to the campus to enforce integration.
Date of Statehood: June 15, 1836
Capital: Little Rock
Population: 2,915,918 (2010)
Size: 53,178 square miles
Nickname(s): The Natural State; The Land of Opportunity
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Motto: Regnat populous (“The people rule”)
Flower: Apple Blossom
- Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Ouachita National Forest reigns as the oldest national forest in the South. The Ouachita Mountains are unusual in that their ridges run east to west as opposed to north to south.
- Arkansas is home to a wide array of natural resources including petroleum, natural gas, bromine and silica stone. Throughout the 20th century, the state was responsible for providing roughly 90 percent of all domestic Bauxite, from which aluminum is made.
- Although it was not officially designated a national park until 1921, the territory now known as Hot Springs National Park was originally set aside by Congress as a U.S. government reservation in 1832—40 years before Yellowstone National Park was established as the “first” national park. With an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit, the hot springs have been used for centuries as therapeutic baths.
- Following the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed segregation in public education, Little Rock’s Central High School became a battleground in the fight for civil rights when the Arkansas National Guard denied nine African-American students entry in 1957. Weeks later, on September 25th, the students attended their first full day of school under federal troop escort ordered by President Dwight Eisenhower.
- The Ozark National Forest covers 1.2 million acres and includes more than 500 species of trees and woody plants.
- Arkansas is the nation’s leading producer of rice and poultry and grows nearly every crop produced in the United States with the exception of citrus fruits.
- From 1874 to 1967, every Arkansas governor was a member of the Democratic Party.