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Tennessee (pronounced TEN-ihsEE, TEN’iss-ee) is a landlocked state located in the Southeastern United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest by area and the 16th most populous of the 50 states. It borders Kentucky to its north, Virginia to its northeast, North Carolina and North Carolina to the south, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to it’s south, Arkansas to its southwest, Missouri to the northwest, and Mississippi to its southeast. Geographically, culturally and legally, Tennessee is divided into three Grand Divisions: East, Middle, or West Tennessee. Nashville is the state’s capital and largest city, and anchors its largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Clarksville. Tennessee’s population as of the 2020 United States census is approximately 6.9 million.
The Watauga Agreement, a 1772 frontier agreement generally considered to be the first constitution west of the Appalachian Mountains, is the root of Tennessee. Its name derives from “Tanasi”, a Cherokee town in the eastern part of the state that existed before the first European American settlement. Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later the Southwest Territory, before its admission to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. Because of its strong tradition in military service, it was nicknamed “The Volunteer State” very early in its history. A slave state until the American Civil War, Tennessee was politically divided, with its western and middle parts supporting the Confederacy and the eastern region harboring pro-Union sentiment. Tennessee was the last state that seceded and was the first to be readmitted to the Union following the war.
During the 20th century, Tennessee transitioned from a predominantly agrarian society to a more diversified economy. This was aided in part by massive federal investment in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the city of Oak Ridge, which was established during World War II to house the Manhattan Project’s uranium enrichment facilities for the construction of the world’s first atomic bombs. These were dropped on Imperial Japan at the end of the war. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory was a major center for scientific research after the war. In 2016, the element tennessine was named for the state, largely in recognition of the roles played by Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee in its discovery. Tennessee has also played a major role in the development of many forms of popular music, including country, blues, rock and roll, soul, and gospel.