South Carolina is a southern state bordering North Carolina, Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean. The western border with Georgia is formed by the Savannah River. The lower part of the state is mostly flat and known as the 'Coastal Plain'. Most of South Carolina's land is either excellent for agricultural purposes or swampland, a contrast determined by the quality of water drainage. The hills in the upper western portion of the state are the highest elevated areas, and also some of the most densely populated. First settled by the British in 1670, South Carolina split from North Carolina in 1729, and was one of the few states to immediately set up its own government in 1776 after declaring independence from Britain. On May 23rd, 1788 it became the 8th state to be admitted to the Union. On December 20th, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, and less than four months later, the Civil War began at Fort Sumter, located on an island in Charleston Harbor. After the war, Reconstruction was particularly hard for South Carolina, as it battled populist movements and sought to rebuild its shattered economy.
Once making up nearly 75% of the population, the African American community in South Carolina currently stands at roughly 30%. The White population mainly lives in the upper coastal areas and in certain urban and suburban areas. South Carolina is considered a rather religious state, with a mere 7% of the population claiming to be non-religious. The capital and largest city is Columbia, located in the middle of the state, and considered to be the economic hub. Charleston, located on the Atlantic coast, was at one time the fifth largest city in America and typified the high culture of the Deep South. Another major urban center is the Greenville-Spartanburg area in the northwestern corner of the state. Once dominated by agriculture, South Carolina's economy has diversified considerably and includes major manufacturing centers, service firms and hi-tech companies. Tourism is also a major economic earner, with the popular ocean-side destination of Myrtle Beach leading the way. Crime is considered a major issue, as South Carolina leads the U.S. in aggravated assaults and violent crimes per capita. It also has a relatively high rate of per capita burglaries and property crimes. South Carolina is now a firmly Republican state, though it was once a bastion of the 'Dixiecrat' movement. The state gave its 8 electoral votes to George W. Bush by overwhelming margins in the last two presidential elections.