Exploring the South When we left Washington, D.C., Admiral, we did not have to travel far to reach the next region. The South is a large region with interesting cultural diversity as well as striking physical geographical features. Across the landscape there are mountains, rivers, valleys, and sandy beaches. The twelve states that make up the South are Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
The South has a different climate from the northern states we have reported on. It is much hotter, especially in the summer. The difference in climate means that Southern farms grow different crops from those grown on northern farms.
In the 1800s, the two most important crops for Southern farmers were cotton and tobacco. These crops had to be picked by hand. This was terribly hard work that few people wanted to do. So the Southern planters had people brought over from Africa to work on the farms. But these people did not come willingly. They were victims of the slave trade that flourished at this time.
In the northern states especially, many people disapproved of slavery. For this, and other reasons, there was conflict between the North and the South. Eleven Southern states decided to form their own country and left the United States. This conflict resulted in the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.
The Civil War ended with the defeat of the South. The Southern states came back into the Union, and slavery was abolished. Though many African Americans moved from the South to other parts of the country in the decades after the Civil War, they still had a significant influence on Southern culture, especially on Southern art, literature, music, dance, and food. Next, we flew south and west to a mountainous area shared by the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The scenery here is very wild. The mountains are part of the great Appalachian Mountains, which reach all the way into New England.
In the South, the Appalachians are known by different names. In Virginia they are called the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains. We landed our ship in a place the map called Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After landing, we found a man wearing an odd round hat. He explained that he was a park official, or ranger. He told us that a national park was a place the government had set aside so that people could come and enjoy nature. This was only one of dozens of national parks, he explained. We asked why the mountains here were called “smoky.” The ranger explained that because of the hazy, blue fog on their tops, Native Americans named them the “place of the blue smoke.” We spent several peaceful hours walking through the woods that cover the hills.
Enjoying the Southern Coast
Next, we flew northward along the East Coast. The coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are covered with sandy beaches. We enjoyed walking in the fresh sea air and observing the behavior of the people on the beach. Some of the most famous beaches on the East Coast are farther south, in the state of Florida. We went there next. This state is a long peninsula. It juts out between two bodies of water—the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.
One reason people go to the beaches in Florida and other Southern states is because the water is warm, making it ideal for swimming. The water is warm partly because of a stream of warm water that flows through the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast. It is called the Gulf Stream. Florida is often warmer than the rest of the South. In fact, it stays warm all year round in some parts of the state. Because of the warm weather, people in Florida can grow fruits that cannot be grown in the North, such as oranges.
After visiting an orange grove, we flew on to one of Florida’s most famous cities, Miami. Many people come to Miami to visit the nearby beaches. But Miami is much more than just beaches. It is also a big, modern city with a diverse population. We found out that many people from Cuba and other islands in the Caribbean Sea live in Miami. The Caribbean is the sea off Florida’s southern coast. On the streets of Miami, a lot of people spoke Spanish, the language of Cuba. After leaving Florida, we headed north again, this time to visit the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. In Kentucky, we visited a farm where horses are raised to run in races. The most famous horse race in America is called the Kentucky Derby. In Tennessee, we stopped off in Nashville and emphis, two cities famous for music. In Nashville, we saw musicians play what is called country music. In Memphis, we heard a form of music called the blues.
The Deep South
Heading south again, we reached the state of Georgia. Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, are part of what some people call the Deep South.
While in Georgia, we visited a peach orchard near Atlanta, Georgia’s capital city. Atlanta was burned down during the Civil War and then rebuilt. Today, it is the most important business center in the South.
The last Southern city we visited was New Orleans in the state of Louisiana. We especially liked the part of town called the French Quarter, which is full of beautiful old houses. Pretty little fences made of black iron surround the houses, and their balconies are covered with potted flowers. Just like Memphis and Nashville, New Orleans is famous for music, especially jazz. We really liked the sound of jazz! When you walk around, so much music is coming out of the buildings that it makes you want to dance in the streets. In fact, New Orleans is known for a once-a-year party when people do dance in the streets. It is called Mardi Gras.
New Orleans is located on the longest river in the United States, the Mississippi. This broad, brown river runs all the way from the state of Minnesota in the northern United States down to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the most important river in the United States for transporting goods by boat.