Arkansas is the 29th largest state of the United States by land area and is found in the southern part of the country. It is ranked the 33rd out of the fifty states with the highest population standing at slightly above 3 million people as estimated in 2018. The capital of the state is Little Rock which apart from hosting the most inhabitants is also the major administrative, transport, and business center. The former territory of Arkansas received admission to the Union in June 1836 as the twenty-fifth state.
The area that is now Arkansas State had been home to Indigenous people for millennia before the European occupation of North America. Spanish explorers were the first to make contact with Native American tribes as early as 1541 but did not establish settlement due to hostile relations with the Native Americans. French explorers made contact in 1673 and established a settlement in 1686. Arkansas changed hands between Spain and France during the colonial period. In 1803 the United States purchased French Louisiana which included Arkansas in what is now known as the Louisiana Purchase. The territory of Arkansas was established in July 1819 following a dispute over allowing slavery in the larger territory. The emancipation of Arkansas allowed it to organize as a slave territory. The issue of slavery has been causing controversy in Arkansas since it was established, and it came up again when Arkansas made the application for statehood. The United States Congress approved Arkansas as a state on June 15th, 1836, becoming the 13th slave state and the 25th state of the United States.
In 1861 Arkansas joined the Confederate states during the Civil War, effectively withdrawing from the United States. The richer farm owners intended to use the Civil War to protect their position as the wealth disparity caused a political rift in the state. The residents of the state, who included over 100,000 slaves, generally hoped to avoid a civil war. Arkansas' membership in the Union was terminated by a state convention after the state’s refusal to send soldiers to Fort Sumter in South Carolina as required by Abraham Lincoln. Arkansas was a crucial state for the Confederate rebels as it gave them control over the Mississippi and other neighboring southern states. Several bloody battles took place in the Northwest of Arkansas, eventually leading to the recapture of Little Rock in 1863. However, guerilla warfare was rampant in the state throughout the war. Congress reinstated Arkansas to the union in June 1868 after enforcement of the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship to persons including former slaves and guaranteed equal protection under the law. Even after its reinstatement to the Union, the state suffered economically due to its reliance on slave labor and social disparity until the civil rights movement took off.
The political class emerging after the Civil War comprised of radical republicans and unionists who oversaw the reconstruction era, legal, and social changes that saw the state overcome long-held prejudices against immigrants. The state diversified its economy and now relies on its service industry, steel, tourism, and cash crops. Famous personalities from Arkansas include the 42nd president of the US, Bill Clinton.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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