The magnolia is the state flower of Mississippi, which is known as the Magnolia State.
The first major European expedition into the territory that became Mississippi was that of the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, who passed through the northeast part of the state in 1540, in his second expedition to the New World. In April 1699, French colonists established the first European settlement at Fort Maurepas (also known as Old Biloxi), built at Ocean Springs and settled by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. In 1716, the French founded Natchez on the Mississippi River (as Fort Rosalie); it became the dominant town and trading post of the area. The French called the greater territory "New Louisiana"; the Spanish continued to claim the Gulf coast area of present-day southern Alabama and Florida.
Through the next decades, the area was ruled by Spanish, French and British colonial governments. The colonists imported African slaves as laborers. Under French and Spanish rule, there developed a class of free people of color (gens de couleur libres), mostly multiracial descendants of European men and enslaved women, and their children. In the early days the French and Spanish colonists were chiefly men. Even as more European women joined the settlements, the men had interracial unions among women of African descent (and increasingly, also European descent), both before and after marriages to European women. Often the European men would help their multiracial children get educated or have apprenticeships for trades, and sometimes settled property on them; they sometimes freed the mothers and their children if enslaved. With this social capital, the free people of color became artisans, sometimes educated merchants and property owners, forming a third class between the Europeans and most enslaved Africans in the French and Spanish settlements, although not so large a community as in New Orleans. After Great Britain's victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the French surrendered the Mississippi area to them under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763).
After the American Revolution, this area became part of the new United States of America. The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina. It was later twice expanded to include disputed territory claimed by both the United States and Spain. From 1800 to about 1830, the United States purchased some lands (Treaty of Doak's Stand) from Native American tribes for new settlements of European Americans, who were mostly migrants from other Southern states. Many slaveholders brought slaves with them or purchased them through the internal slave market, especially New Orleans. They transported nearly one million slaves to the Deep South, including Mississippi, in a forced internal migration that broke up many slave families of the Upper South, where planters were selling excess slaves. The Southerners imposed their slave laws and restricted the rights of free blacks, according to their view of white supremacy.
Southern slave codes did make wilful killing of a slave illegal in most cases. For example, the 1860 Mississippi case of Oliver v. State charged the defendant with murdering his own slave. Beginning in 1822, slaves in Mississippi were protected by law from cruel and unusual punishment by their owners.
On December 10, 1817, Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union. David Holmes was elected as the first governor of the state. Plantations were developed primarily along the rivers, where waterfront gave them access to the major transportation routes. This is also where early towns developed, linked by the steamboats that carried commercial products and crops to markets. The backcountry remained largely undeveloped frontier.