50 States in 50 Days: Tennessee – America at Its Best

Posted By: Kevin Lee, Information Systems Officer

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State Capital: Nashville

I was born in California but I proudly call Tennessee my home. The word Tennessee has its origin in the Cherokee language. It was originally pronounced “Tanasi.”

“Tennessee – America at Its Best” was adopted as the official state slogan of Tennessee in 1965.

The Tanasi monument

The Music State

Tennessee, especially Nashville, is considered by many as the home of America’s music. It is home to the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, and bears the nickname “Music City, U.S.A.”. By the 1950s, the city’s record labels dominated the genre with slick pop-country (Nashville sound). Performers reacting against the Nashville sound formed their own scenes in Lubbock, Texas and Bakersfield, California, the latter of which (Bakersfield sound) became the most popular type of country by the late 1960s, led by Merle Haggard. Nashville’s predominance in county music was regained by the early 1980s, when Dwight Yoakam and other neo-traditionalists entered the charts. Today, there is still a thriving country music scene, however there are other genres developing, such as indie, rock, and metalcore.

Shania Twain in concert

Tennessee’s Most Famous Product

Jack Daniel’s is a brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey that is the bestselling whiskey in the world. It is known for its square bottles and black label. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee by the Jack Daniel Distillery, which has been owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation since 1956. Despite being the location of a major operational distillery, Jack Daniel’s home county of Moore is a dry county, so the product is not available for consumption at stores or restaurants within the county, although the distillery does sell commemorative bottles of whiskey.

Although the product generally meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, the company disavows this classification and markets it simply as Tennessee whiskey rather than as Tennessee bourbon.

Jack Daniel’s founded in 1866

Famous People born in Tennessee

The list includes Justin Timberlake, Usher, Tina Turner, Miley Cyrus, Chet Atkins, Davy Crockett, Nathan Bedford Forest, Bob Harper, Isaac Hayes, Dolly Parton, Morgan Freeman, and Quentin Tarantino.

Morgan Freeman from Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee Statehood History

Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796 as the 16th state. It was the first state created from territory under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government. Apart from the former Thirteen Colonies only Vermont and Kentucky predate Tennessee’s statehood, and neither was ever a federal territory. The state boundaries, according to the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, Article I, Section 31, stated that the beginning point for identifying the boundary was the extreme height of the Stone Mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, and basically ran the extreme heights of mountain chains through the Appalachian Mountains separating North Carolina from Tennessee past the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota, thence along the main ridge of the said mountain (Unicoi Mountain) to the southern boundary of the state; all the territory, lands and waters lying west of said line are included in the boundaries and limits of the newly formed state of Tennessee. Part of the provision also stated that the limits and jurisdiction of the state would include future land acquisition, referencing possible land trade with other states, or the acquisition of territory from west of the Mississippi River.

During the administration of U.S. President Martin Van Buren, nearly 17,000 Cherokees—along with approximately 2,000 black slaves owned by Cherokees—were uprooted from their homes between 1838 and 1839 and were forced by the U.S. military to march from “emigration depots” in Eastern Tennessee (such as Fort Cass) toward the more distant Indian Territory west of Arkansas. (Editor’s note: The legal basis for this relocation was the Treaty of New Echota, signed in 1835 by a dissident faction of Cherokee that had only a dubious claim to speak for the nation. Then-President Andrew Jackson lobbied the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty in 1836.) During this relocation an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died along the way west. In the Cherokee language, the event is called Nunna daul Isunyi—”the Trail Where We Cried.” The Cherokees were not the only Native Americans forced to emigrate as a result of the Indian removal efforts of the United States, and so the phrase “Trail of Tears” is sometimes used to refer to similar events endured by other Native American peoples, especially among the “Five Civilized Tribes.” The phrase originated as a description of the earlier emigration of the Choctaw nation.

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