OZY Series

Statesof theNation

On the heels of a historically divisive election, OZY is hitting the road to start a provocative and unfiltered conversation about the path forward. Tour America with OZY's tribe of reporters as we uncover the people, places and trends that are reshaping the nation, one state at a time.

Can This Southern Spitfire Fix America's Prisons?

Can This Southern Spitfire Fix America's Prisons?

Louisiana’s youngest legislator wants to reform our prisons — but can she?

  1. Kentucky

    At the crux of the urban-rural divide is the Bluegrass State, whose biggest city is being rewritten by a data-driven mayor. The state’s rural residents are grappling with a failing coal economy and facing a new threat: the influx of radioactive waste from their fracking neighbors.

    • State motto “United we stand, divided we fall.”

    • Fast fact Pikeville leads the nation in per-capita Pepsi consumption.

    • Did you know? The state’s Mammoth National Park contains the longest cave system in the world.

    • Unemployment 4.8% (Kentucky) vs. 4.7% (national)

  2. West Virginia

    Filled with stunning beauty and equally stunning contradictions, the Mountain State is also marked by its deep ties to family and communities that continually seem to grapple with a complicated relationship to industry.

    • State motto “Montani semper liberi” (“mountaineers are always free”).

    • Fast fact No. 1 state for female incarceration.

    • Did you know? The first Mother's Day in the U.S. was celebrated in Grafton in 1908.

    • Unemployment 5.9% (West Virginia) vs. 4.7% (national)

  3. Tennessee

    The orbit of political power in the Volunteer State rests solidly in Nashville, where the honky-tonk economy booms — but so does homelessness. As legislators grapple with the implications, their capital city has worked to attract new Americans and new ideas.

    • State motto “Agriculture and commerce.”

    • Fast fact Home to the second-most visited house in the country (after the White House): Graceland.

    • Did you know? Tennessee boasts the oldest continuously operated African-American bank in the country.

    • Unemployment 4.9% (Tennessee) vs. 4.7% (national)

  4. North Carolina

    The Tar Heel state teeters between the Research Triangle’s blue brethren and its rural red expanses. Between Appalachian ski slopes and Nicholas Sparks’ romanticized beach towns, the state that once “outlawed climate change” now faces deep questions of faith, as both bathroom bills and floodwaters rise against biblical values.

    • State motto “Esse Quam Videri.” (“To be, rather than to seem”).

    • Fast fact Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned house in the U.S.

    • Did you know? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the country’s oldest state university.

    • Unemployment 5.1% (North Carolina) vs. 4.7% (national)

  5. Utah

    This vastly rural state is distinguished by its conservative values and ties to the Latter-day Saints Church. But its counterculture activists are fighting the powers that be, and urban centers are flexing some serious progressive muscle when it comes to legislative issues that advocate clean air and women’s rights.

    • State motto Industry

    • Fast fact More than half — 51 percent — of the state’s residents attend church each week, the highest in the U.S.

    • Did you know? Coal, the Beehive State’s official rock, is found in 17 of 29 counties — though mining is primarily concentrated in two of them, including Carbon County.

    • Unemployment 3.1% (Utah) vs. 4.7% (national)

  6. Virginia

    Virginia is a state that, for a time, loved its history at the expense of its future — or so says former Vice Presidential nominee and Sen. Tim Kaine to OZY. Now, Old Dominion faces similar questions of how to push forward amid a bevy of Trumpian and anti-Trump political leaders vying for power, as well as a hotly contested opportunity to expand broadband access to its most isolated citizens.

    • State motto “Sic semper tyrannis” (a version of the phrase “Thus always I bring death to tyrants.”)

    • Fast fact Known as “the birthplace of a nation,” Virginia has delivered eight presidents — the most of any state — though none since Woodrow Wilson.

    • Did you know? It’s been dubbed “the Internet Capital of the World.” Over half of the world’s web-based traffic passes through data centers in Loudoun County, yet many rural areas struggle to access basic broadband.

    • Unemployment 4.1% (Virginia) vs. 4.7% (national), making it the third lowest in the country.

  7. Maryland

    Maryland is rolling blue from its gerrymandered districts to its harbor shoreline. From the nation’s most efficient port, a fresh senator lays out a plan for wielding outsize influence, while long-forgotten farmers build surprising momentum from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore.

    • State motto “Fatti maschii, parole femine.” (“Strong deeds, gentle words.”)

    • Fast fact The Port of Baltimore has been named the most productive in the nation for three straight years, unloading and loading container ships by crane faster than any other American port.

    • Did you know? In 1988, the mayor declared Baltimore “the city that reads,” emblazoning the slogan on the city’s benches. Locals soon edited them to read “the city that bleeds.”

    • Unemployment 4.2% (Maryland) vs. 4.7% (national)

  8. Delaware

    The First State is the nation’s second-smallest, a bank haven dominated by the Wilmington-Dover stretch between Baltimore and Philadelphia and, along its southern coast, farmland that raises the broiler chickens and grows the corn of its top industry, agriculture.

    • State motto Liberty and Independence

    • Fast fact The Blue Hen chicken, known for its fighting ability, is the state bird.

    • Did you know? Delaware is the only state without any National Park System outposts, whether parks, seashores, historic sites or battlefields.

    • Unemployment 4.4% (Delaware) vs. 4.7% (national)

  9. Michigan

    The Great Lakes state is varied in opinion and character, from the hog farmers of the Upper Peninsula to the denizens of Detroit and the vibrant Arab-American community. And now that Motor City is rebuilding, locals say it must be remade with people in mind — not just the “Big Three.”

    • State motto Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice (“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”).

    • Fast fact With almost a quarter-million Arab-American residents, Michigan trails only California, and boasts the nation’s only Muslim-majority city, Dearborn.

    • Did you know? Known as the Wolverine State, Michigan has been home to almost no wild wolverines for more than 200 years.

    • Unemployment 5.2% (Michigan) vs. 4.7% (national)

  10. Illinois

    Long known for its rough-and-tumble political epicenter of Chicago, the Land of Lincoln doesn’t always live up to the honesty of its namesake. Yet it’s also a land of opportunity, one at the cutting edge of expanding rights for immigrants and the queer community.

    • State motto State Sovereignty, National Union

    • Fast fact Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment — abolishing slavery.

    • Did you know? Chicago saw 762 homicides — more than New York and Los Angeles combined — last year. It represented a 57 percent increase from 2015.

    • Unemployment 5.7% (Illinois) vs. 4.7% (national)

  11. Wisconsin

    America’s Dairyland annually produces over 29 billion pounds of milk, but beer is Wisconsin’s most beloved beverage. An hourlong drive down Lake Winnebago includes three of the nation’s booziest towns, and the state boasts seven of the 10 biggest binge-drinking cities, helping explain how, amid all that grain, supper clubs and the powerful Tavern League dominate local culture.

    • State motto Forward

    • Fast fact Wisconsin snowmobile trails total more than 15,000 miles of signed and groomed snow highways.

    • Did you know? It’s the only state that doesn’t automatically criminalize drunk drivers, essentially treating first-time offenses like traffic tickets.

    • Unemployment 3.7% (Wisconsin) vs. 4.7% (national)

  12. Texas

    In the Lone Star State of some 27 million, the seat of power in Austin is greatly influenced by money and corporate interests. Spreading out further, innovations abound, in small and large pockets of community — from art opportunities for refugees to mental health coverage for the often overlooked.

    • State motto Friendship

    • Fast fact Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives 95 to 55.

    • Did you know? Five of America’s 11 fastest-growing cities, by percentage growth, are in Texas, according to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report.

    • Unemployment 4.9% (Texas) vs. 4.7% (national)

  13. New Jersey

    If northern New Jersey is New York City’s sprawling urban backyard, then the south of the state is Philly’s front lawn. Politics in the Garden State revolve around power struggles between state and city, and although these battle lines may be old, new players are breaking the deadlock, from Atlantic City's bold mayor to innovative educational models in Newark.

    • State motto Liberty and Prosperity

    • Fast fact The original street names for the board game Monopoly come from Atlantic City.

    • Did you know? New Jersey has the highest population density of any U.S. state.

    • Unemployment 4.4% (New Jersey) vs. 4.7% (national)

  14. Georgia

    From the Appalachian foothills to the urban sprawl of Atlanta and the mossy oaks of Savannah, questions of environmental and intellectual diversity are on Georgia’s mind.

    • State motto Wisdom, Justice and Moderation

    • Fast fact It’s home to the first state-supported university, the University of Georgia, which was chartered in January 1785.

    • Did you know? For three straight years, from 2013 through 2015, the Peach State was named the top state to do business in by Site Selection magazine.

    • Unemployment 5.1% (Georgia) vs. 4.7% (national)

  15. South Carolina

    The Palmetto State is marked by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and, to the east, the harbor of Charleston, which carries the products of the state’s manufacturing boom (plastics and car parts) out to developing economies such as China.

    • State motto Dum spiro spero (“While I breathe, I hope”).

    • Fast fact South Carolina leads the nation in tire manufacturing — producing nearly 90,000 per day.

    • Did you know? South Carolina, not Georgia, is the nation’s leading peach producer east of the Mississippi River.

    • Unemployment 4.4% (South Carolina) vs. 4.7% (national)