Spanish settlers first explored Tennessee in 1539 and French traders were plying the rivers by the 17th century. Virginian pioneers soon established their own settlement and fought the British in the American Revolution. Taking their name from the Cherokee town of Tanasi, Tennessee joined the United States as the 16th state in 1796.
Under the administration of President Martin Van Buren, about 16, 000 natives were displaced from their homes in the mid-1800s and marched west along the ‘Trail of Tears’, to the Indian Territory of Arkansas.
Tennessee was the last Southern state to secede during the Civil War, and many important battles were fought here. Immediately following the war, six Confederate veterans from the town of Pulaski formed the infamous Ku Klux Klan to disenfranchise and terrorize the newly free blacks.
Major industries today are textiles, tobacco, cattle and chemicals, with tourism, especially in Nashville and Memphis, raking in hundreds of millions a year.