66 SCHOOLS in TENNESSEE
Though it was explored by Spanish and French adventurers, Europeans did not begin settling in the region that would be called Tennessee until the first British fort was built in 1756. Being the furthest-flung frontier, there was no government presence in the region, and by 1772 English settlers had formed the Watauga Association, negotiating a peace treaty and land lease directly with the Cherokee tribe, without the approval of the British government – the first independent, pseudo-democratic government in the Americas. It was a short-lived government, though; with the outbreak of the American Revolution, the Watauga Association joined North Carolina and entered the war for independence. Tennessee’s culture was still somewhere between Southern and Northern when the Civil War began; it was the last state to secede, and the first to be recaptured, and the state remained deeply divided over the War (a popular referendum actually voted against secession). Even after secession, Tennessee sent more troops to the Union side than any other Southern state, and the second-most to the Confederacy (after Virginia). Tennessee’s nickname – the Volunteer State – is a reflection of the people’s willingness to join where they were needed in time of war, from the Revolution and War of 1812 to the Civil War and the Spanish-American.
Landlocked Tennessee has been a heavily agricultural state throughout its history, from cotton and tobacco to beef and other livestock, and the state still has more than 80,000 farms. However, Tennessee’s best-known claims to fame are cultural. Tennessee is a rich and deep source of American musical development: the blues and jazz in Memphis and the Tennessee Mississippi Delta region; folk and country music in Bristol (the first place country music was recorded) and Nashville (Music City, USA, and the home of the immortal Grand Ole Opry); and R&B and rock and roll, first centered around Sun Records in Memphis. The popular culture of the United States, in other words, would be entirely different without Tennessee. Tennessee is also one of the 10 most popular states for tourism, primarily to the region’s many music-related events and museums, and to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most-visited national park. In the 21st century, Chattanooga has become a center of the new digital economy, earning national attention for tech start-ups and entrepreneurship.
Tennessee’s higher education network is primed and ready for the state’s changes and growth; the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – the state’s regional, urban research university – has become well known for its world-class Engineering and Computer Science program. Tennessee is also home to two of the South’s most prestigious universities – Sewanee: The University of the South, and Vanderbilt University, both crucial centers of the New South. With its deep heritage of religious faith, numerous Christian colleges bring excellent liberal arts instruction combined with biblical belief. Whether it is the newest technological careers, or the tried and true humanities, fine arts, and sciences, Tennessee’s colleges and universities are links to Tennessee’s heritage, and keys to Tennessee’s future.