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Memphis is a city in the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is the seat of Shelby County in the southwest part of the state; it is situated along the Mississippi River. With a population of 633,104 at the 2020 U.S. census, Memphis is the second-most populous city in Tennessee, after Nashville.
Memphis is the fifth-most populous city in the Southeast, the nation's 28th-largest overall, as well as the largest city bordering the Mississippi River. The Memphis metropolitan area includes West Tennessee and the greater Mid-South region, which includes portions of neighboring Arkansas, Mississippi and the Missouri Bootheel. One of the more historic and culturally significant cities of the Southern United States, Memphis has a wide variety of landscapes and distinct neighborhoods.
The first European explorer to visit the area of present-day Memphis was Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto in 1541. The high Chickasaw Bluffs protecting the location from the waters of the Mississippi was contested by Spanish, French, and English colonizers as Memphis developed. By 1819, when modern Memphis was founded, it was part of United States territory. John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson founded the city. Based on the wealth of cotton plantations and river traffic along the Mississippi, Memphis grew into one of the largest cities of the Antebellum South. After the American Civil War and the end of slavery, the city continued to grow into the 20th century. It became among the largest world markets for cotton and lumber.
Home to Tennessee's largest African-American population, Memphis played a prominent role in the American Civil Rights Movement. Leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated there in 1968 after activities supporting a strike by the city's maintenance workers. The National Civil Rights Museum was established there and is a Smithsonian affiliate institution.
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