The History of Georgia spans Pre-Columbian time to the present day.


Before European contact, Native American cultures are divided into four time periods: Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian. The Mississippian culture, lasting from 800 to 1500 AD, developed urban societies, distinguished by their construction of truncated pyramid mounds, or platform mounds. The largest Mound Builder villages in present-day Georgia were Etowah and Ocmulgee. The causes of the fall of the Mississippian culture are unknown. Archaeological evidence suggests that overpopulation and bad harvests contributed to the decline of the larger chiefdoms prior to European conquest, but the introduction of plague diseases by the expedition of Hernando de Soto, from 1539-42, was the main reason for its collapse. The largest tribe of Indians are the Creek.

European exploration[]

At the time of European colonization of the Americas, Cherokee and Creek Indians lived in what is now Georgia. Though it is unknown exactly who was the first European to sight Georgia, it is possible that Juan Ponce de Leon sailed along the coast during his exploration of Florida. In 1526, Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón attempted to establish a colony there, possibly near St. Catherines Island.

Another colony attempt, called Charlesfort, made by the French under Jean Ribault, was realized when French Huguenots settled an area in the Port Royal Sound area of present-day South Carolina. Within a year the colony failed. Most of the colonists followed René Goulaine de Laudonnière south and founded a new outpost in present-day Florida called Fort Caroline.

Over the next few decades, a number of Spanish explorers from Florida visited the inland region. The local mound builder culture, described by Hernando de Soto in 1540, had completely disappeared by 1560.

British colony[]

A map of the Province of Georgia.

The conflict between Spain and Britain over control of Georgia began in earnest in about 1670, when the British colony of South Carolina was founded just north of the missionary provinces of Guale and Mocama, part of Spanish Florida. Guale and Mocama, today part of Georgia, lay between Carolina's capital, Charles Town, and Spanish Florida's capital, St. Augustine. They were subjected to repeated military invasions by both sides. The mission system was permanently destroyed by 1704, after which the coast of future Georgia was occupied by English-allied Yamasee Indians until they were decimated in the Yamasee War of 1715-1717. The surviving Yamasee fled to Florida, leaving the coast of Georgia thoroughly depopulated, opening the possibility of a new British colony. A few defeated Yamasee remained, becoming known as the Yamacraw.

Massive British settlement began in the early 1730s with James Oglethorpe, an Englishman in the British parliament, who promoted the idea that the area be used to settle the worthy poor of England, providing an alternative to the overcrowded debtors' prisons. Oglethorpe and other British philanthropists secured a royal charter as the Trustees of the colony of Georgia on June 9, 1732. [2]. Ultimately, the colony was not founded by or for debtors, although the misconception of Georgia having been founded as a debtor or penal colony persists. With the motto, "Not for ourselves, but for others," the Trustees selected colonists for Georgia. On February 12, 1733, the first settlers landed in HMS Anne at what was to become the city of Savannah.

Georgia, wrote Governor Wright in 1766,[Saye p 135} had

"No manufactures of the least consequence: a trifling quantity of coarse homespun cloth, woollen and cotton mixed; amongst the poorer sort of people, for their own use, a few cotton and yarn stockings; shoes for our negroes; and some occasional blacksmith's work. But all our supplies of silk, linens, woollens, shoes, stockings, nails, locks, hinges, and tools of every sort... are all imported from and through Great Britain."

From 1735 and 1750, the trustees of Georgia, unique among Britain's American colonies, prohibited African slavery as a matter of public policy. However, as the growing wealth of slave-based plantation economy in neighboring South Carolina demonstrated, slaves were more profitable than other forms of labor available to colonists. Improving economic conditons in Europe led to fewer whites being willing to immigrate as indentured servants. Many of the whites had high mortality rates in the climate of the Low Country.

In 1749, the state overturned its ban on slavery. From 1750 to 1775, planters so rapidly imported slaves that the enslaved population grew from less than 500 to approximately 18,000. The Africans had the knowledge and material techniques to build the elaborate earthworks of dams, banks, and irrigation systems throughout the Low Country that supported rice and indigo cultivation. Later sugar cane was added as a crop.[1] Georgia planters imported slaves chiefly from rice-growing regions of present-day Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Angola. These Africans were experienced in rice culture and brought their techniques to the colony.

South Carolinian emigrant planters, wealthier than the original settlers of Georgia, soon dominated the colony. They replicated the customs and institutions of the South Carolina Low Country. Planters had higher rates of absenteeism from their large coastal plantations. They often took their families to higher areas during the summer, the "sick season", when the Low Country had high rates of disease.

The pacing and development of large plantations made the Georgia coast society more like the West Indies than Virginia. There was a higher proportion of African-born slaves, and Africans who came from closely related regions. The slaves of the 'Rice Coast' of South Carolina and Georgia developed the unique Gullah or Geechee culture (the latter term more common in Georgia), in which important parts of African linguistic, religious and cultural heritage were preserved. This culture developed throughout the Low Country and Sea Islands, where enslaved African-Americans also later worked at cotton plantations. African American influence was strong on Southern foodways and music.

American Revolution[]

In the 1760s, the decade before the American Revolution, Britain threatened Georgia's 18,000 white colonists with some 10,000 hostile Indians nearby. Royal governor James Wright was popular. But Georgians read the same political tracts as Bostonians, and developed their own concept of their rights and republican ideals that were violated by British actions imposing a stamp tax, which Georgians denounced in 1765. More fearsome was the British punishment of Boston after the Boston Tea Party. Many feared they would be next - and indeed they were.

In August 1774, at a general meeting in Savannah the people proclaimed. "Protection and allegiance are reciprocal, and under the British Constitution correlative terms; ... the Constitution admits of no taxation without representation." Georgia had few grievances of its own but ideologically supported the patriot cause and expelled the British.

Angered by the news of the battle of Concord, on the eleventh of May 1775, the patriots stormed the royal magazine at Savannah and carried off the ammunition stored there. The customary celebration of the King's birthday on June 4th was turned into a wild demonstration against the King; a liberty pole was erected. Within a month the patriots completely defied royal authority and set up their own government. In June and July, assemblies at Savannah chose a Council of Safety and a Provincial Congress, to take control of the government and cooperate with the other colonies. They started raising troops and prepared for war. "In short my lord," wrote Wright to Lord Dartmouth on September 16, 1775, "the whole Executive Power is Assumed by them, and the King's Governor remains little Else than Nominally so."

In February 1776, Wright fled to a British warship and the patriots controlled all of Georgia. The new Congress adopted "Rules and Regulations" April 15, 1776, which can be considered the Constitution of 1776. (There never was a Georgia declaration of independence.) Georgia was no longer a colony--it was a state with a weak chief executive, the "President and Commander-in-Chief," who was elected by the Congress for a term of only six months. Archibald Bulloch, President of the two previous Congresses, was elected first President, and he bent his efforts to mobilizing and training the militia. The Constitution of 1777 was a highly democratic document putting power in the hands of the elected House of Assembly, which chose the governor; there was no senate and the franchise was open to nearly all white men.

The new state's exposed seaboard position made it a tempting target for the British Navy. Savannah was captured by British and Loyalist forces in 1778, along with some of its hinterland. Enslaved Africans and African Americans chose their independence by escaping to British lines, where they were promised freedom. More than one-third of Georgia's slaves, nearly 5,000 people, escaped during the Revolution. [2]

The patriots moved to Augusta. At the Siege of Savannah in 1779, American and French troops (the latter including a company of free blacks from Haiti) fought unsuccessfully to retake the city. During the final years of the American Revolution, Georgia had a functioning Loyalist colonial government along the coast. Together with New York City, it was the last Loyalist bastion.

An early historian reported: [Charles C. Jones (1883), quoted in Saye, p.195]

"For forty-two long months had she been a prey to rapine, oppression, fratricidal strife, and poverty. Fear, unrest, the brand, the sword, the tomahawk, had been her portion. In the abstraction [removal] of negro slaves, by the burning of dwellings, in the obliteration of plantations, by the destruction of agricultural implements, and by theft of domestic animals and personal effects, it is estimated that at least one half of the available property of the inhabitants had, during this period, been completely swept away. Real estate had depreciated in value. Agriculture was at a stand-still, and there was no money with which to repair these losses and inaugurate a new era of prosperity. The lamentation of widows and orphans, too, were heard in the land. These not only bemoaned their dead, but cried aloud for food. Amid the general depression there was, nevertheless, a deal of gladness in the hearts of the people, a radiant joy, an inspiring hope. Independence had been won."

Georgia ratified the U.S. Constitution on January 2, 1788.

The original eight counties of Georgia were Burke, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Richmond and Wilkes. Before these counties were created in 1777, Georgia had been divided into local government units called parishes.

Antebellum period[]

In 1787, the Treaty of Beaufort established the eastern boundary of Georgia as the Savannah River, to Tugalo Lake. Twelve to 14 miles of land (inhabited at the time by the Cherokee Nation) separate the lake from the southern boundary of North Carolina. South Carolina ceded its claim to this land (extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean) to the federal government.

Georgia maintained a claim on western land from 31° N to 35° N, the southern part of which overlapped with the Mississippi Territory created from part of Spanish Florida in 1798. Georgia ceded its claims in 1802, fixing its present western boundary, and in 1804, the federal government added the cession to the Mississippi Territory.

The Treaty of 1816 fixed the present-day boundary between Georgia and South Carolina at the Chattooga River, proceeding northwest from the lake. [3]

In 1794, Eli Whitney, a Massachusetts-born artisan residing in Savannah, patented the cotton gin, mechanizing cotton production at a time when the Industrial Revolution resulted in the mechanized spinning and weaving of cloth in the world’s first factories in the north of England. Fueled by the soaring demands of British textile manufacturers, King Cotton quickly came to dominate Georgia and the other southern states. Although Congress banned the slave trade in 1808, Georgia's slave population continued to grow with the importation of slaves from the plantations of the South Carolina Low Country and Chesapeake Tidewater, increasing from 149,656 in 1820 to 280,944 in 1840.[4] A small population of free blacks developed, mostly working as artisans. The Georgia legislature unanimously passed a resolution in 1842 declaring that free blacks were not U.S. citizens.[5]

Slaves worked the fields in large cotton plantations, and the economy of the state became dependent on the institution of slavery. Requiring little cultivation and easy to transport, cotton proved ideally suited to the inland frontier. The lower Piedmont or 'Black Belt' counties - comprising the middle third of the state and initially named for the regions distinctively dark and fertile soil - became the site of the largest and most productive cotton plantations. By 1860, the slave population in the Black Belt was three times greater than that of the coastal counties, where rice remained the principal crop.[6] The upper Piedmont was settled mainly by white yeoman farmers of Scots-Irish descent. While there were also many smaller cotton plantations, the proportion of slaves was lower in north Georgia than in the coastal and Black Belt counties, but still ranged up to 25% of the population. In 1860 in the state as a whole, enslaved African Americans comprised 44% of the population of slightly more than one million.[7]

In 1829, gold was discovered in the north Georgia mountains, resulting in the Georgia Gold Rush, the first gold rush in U.S. history. A Federal mint was established in Dahlonega and continued to operate until 1861. An influx of white settlers pressured the U.S. government to take the land away from the Cherokee Indians, who owned the land, operated their own government with a written constitution, and did not recognize the authority of the state of Georgia. This dispute culminated in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, under which all eastern tribes were sent west to Indian reservations in present-day Oklahoma. In Worcester v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that states were not permitted to redraw the boundaries of Indian lands, but President Andrew Jackson and the state of Georgia ignored the ruling. In 1838, his successor, Martin van Buren dispatched federal troops to round up the Cherokee and deport them west of the Mississippi. This forced relocation, known as the Trail of Tears led to the death of over 4,000 Cherokees.

Civil War[]

On January 18, 1861 Georgia seceded from the Union, keeping the name "State of Georgia" and joining the newly formed Confederacy in February. During the war, Georgia sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to battle, mostly to the armies in Virginia. The state switched from cotton to food production, but severe transportation difficulties because of underdeveloped roads and railroads restricted movement of supplies. Thinking the state safe from invasion, the Confederates built small munitions factories. Their largest prisoner of war camp, at Andersonville, proved a death camp because of severe lack of supplies, food, water, and medicine.

The first major battle in Georgia was a Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863--it was the last major Confederate victory in the west. In 1864, William T. Sherman's armies invaded Georgia as part of the Atlanta Campaign. Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston fought a series of delaying battles, the largest being the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, as he tried to delay as long as possible by retreating toward Atlanta. Johnston's replacement, Gen. John Bell Hood attempted several unsuccessful counterattacks at the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the Battle of Atlanta, but Sherman captured the city on September 2, 1864.

After burning Atlanta to the ground, Sherman embarked on his March to the Sea on November 15, en route to Milledgeville, the state capital, which he reached on November 23, and the port city of Savannah, which he entered on December 22. His army destroyed a swath of land about 60 miles across in this campaign, less than 10% of the state. Once Sherman's army passed through, the Confederates regained control. The March is a major part of the state's folk history. The crisis was the setting for Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and the subsequent 1939 film. One of the last land battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Columbus, was fought on the Georgia-Alabama border.


At the beginning of the Reconstruction, Georgia had over 460,000 Freedmen. In January 1865, William T. Sherman issued Special Field Orders authorizing federal authorities to confiscate 'abandoned' plantation lands in the Sea Islands and redistribute them to former slaves. This order was revoked later that year by President Andrew Johnson, who returned the lands to their former owners.

Andrew Johnson's decision to restore the former Confederate states to the Union was criticized by the Radical Republicans in Congress, who, in March 1867, passed the First Reconstruction Act, placing the South under military occupation. Georgia, along with Alabama and Florida, became part of the Third Military District, under the command of General John Pope. Radical Republicans passed an ironclad oath, preventing ex-Confederates from voting or holding office, replacing them with a coalition of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags, mostly former Whigs who had opposed secession.

In January 1868, after Georgia's first elected governor after the end of the war, Charles Jenkins, refused to authorize state funds for a racially integrated state constitutional convention, his government was dissolved by Pope's successor General George Meade and replaced by a military governor. This coup galvanized white resistance to the Reconstruction, fueling the growth of the Ku Klux Klan. Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest visited Atlanta several times in early 1868 to help set up the organization. Freedmen's Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill against freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.[8]

In July 1868, the newly elected General Assembly ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, a Republican governor, Rufus Bullock, was inaugurated, and Georgia was readmitted to the Union. The states Democrats-including former Confederate leaders Robert Toombs and Howell Cobb-convened in Atlanta to denounce the Reconstruction, in what was described as the largest mass-rally held in Georgia. In September, white Republicans joined with the Democrats in expelling the thirty-two black legislators from the General Assembly. A week later in the southwest Georgia town of Camilla, white residents attacked a black Republican rally, killing twelve people.

These developments led to calls for Georgia's return to military rule, which increased after Georgia was one of only two ex-Confederate states to vote against Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election of 1868. In March 1869 Governor Bullock, in order to prolong Reconstruction, "engineered" the defeat of the Fifteenth Amendment. The same month the U.S. Congress once again barred Georgia's representatives from their seats, causing military rule to resume in December 1869. In January 1870, Gen. Alfred H. Terry, the final commanding general of the Third District, purged the General Assembly's ex-Confederates, replaced them with the Republican runners-up, and reinstated the expelled black legislators, creating a large Republican majority in the legislature. In February 1870 the newly constituted legislature ratified the Fifteenth Amendment and chose new Senators to send to Washington. On July 15, Georgia became the last former Confederate state readmitted into the Union. The Democrats subsequently won commanding majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, forcing the last Republican governor, Rufus Bullock, to flee the state in order to avoid impeachment.

Postwar economic growth[]

In 1907, Peachtree Street, the main street of Atlanta, was busy with streetcars and automobiles.

Under the Reconstruction government, the former state capital of Milledgeville was replaced by the inland rail terminus of Atlanta, with construction beginning on a new capitol building, completed by 1889. Post-Reconstruction Georgia was dominated by the 'Bourbon Triumvirate' of Joseph E. Brown, Gen. John B. Gordon and Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt. Between 1872 and 1890, either Brown or Gordon held one of Georgia's Senate seats, Colquitt held the other, and, in the major part of that period, either Colquitt or Gordon occupied the Governor's office. With their appeals to white supremacy, the Democrats effectively monopolized state politics. Colquitt represented the old planter class; Brown, who, as head of Western & Atlantic Railroad was one of the states first millionaires, represented the New South businessmen. Gordon was neither a planter nor a successful businessman, but proved the most skilled politician.

A General in the Army of Northern Virginia whose led the fabled last charge at Appomattox, he was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, and became the first former Confederate to serve in the Senate. There he helped write the Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction. A native of northwest Georgia, his popularity impeded the growth of the 'mountain Republicanism' prevalent throughout southern Appalachia, where slavery was largely nonexistent and resentment against the planter class widespread.

During the Gilded Age, Georgia recovered from the devastation of the Civil War, experiencing unprecedented economic growth. Atlanta Constitution editor Henry Grady emerged as the leading spokesman of the 'New South', promoting sectional reconciliation and the region's place in a rapidly industrializing nation. The International Cotton Exposition of 1881 and the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895 were staged to promote Georgia and the South as a textile center, luring mills from New England in an attempt to build a new economic base in the post-war South by diversifying the region’s agrarian economies. Attracted by close proximity to the raw materials and cheap wages, the venture had considerable success, transforming Columbus and Atlanta, as well as Graniteville, on the Georgia-South Carolina border, into textile manufacturing centers.[9] Due to Georgia's relatively untapped virgin forests, particularly in the thinly populated pine barrens of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, logging became a major industry, supporting several new industries, most notably paper mills and turpentine distilling, which, by 1900, made Georgia the leading producer of naval stores. Also important were coal, granite and kaolin-mining, the later used in the manufacture of paper, bricks and ceramic piping. In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted Prohibition legislation, a local pharmacist invented the drink that, after being sold two years later to Asa Candler, would become the state's most famous export, Coca-Cola.

In 1868, Georgia became the first state to implement the convict lease system. It made money be leasing out the overwhelmingly black prison population to work for private businesses and citizens. The state made money be creating another form of slavery. The work force was unprotected and did not receive any income. Railroad companies, mines, turpentine distilleries and other manufacturers, in essence, used unpaid convict labor to hasten industrialization. While the entities employing convicts were legally obliged to provide humane treatment, widespread reports that leased convicts were being overworked, brutally whipped, and killed were completely ignored. Georgia’s incipient capitalists reaped huge profits from this system. The greatest beneficiary was Joseph E. Brown, whose railroads, coal mines and iron works were all dependent on convict labor.

Georgia, along with the rest of the American South, was the location of militia and lynch-mob violence directed against the freedmen, as whites tried to reestablish social and political dominance. It was continuation of the Civil War by other means, as white allies and Freedmen's Bureau officials were also targeted. In the 1880's and 1890's, the number of lynchings grew steadily, reaching its height in 1899, when twenty-seven Georgians were killed by lynch mobs. From 1890 to 1900, Georgia averaged more than one mob killing per month. More than 95% of the victims of the 450 documented lynchings between 1882 and 1930 were black. Soon after the turn of the century, the state legislature disfranchised African Americans. [10]

The Cotton States and International Exposition was famous as the occasion of Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise. He urged African Americans to focus their efforts, not on demands for social equality, but to improve their own conditions by becoming proficient in agriculture, mechanics, and domestic service, essentially building a broad base within existing conditions. He urged whites to take responsibility to improve social and economic relations between the races. Black leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois strongly disagreed with Washington and denounced him for acquiescing to oppression. Du Bois, the most highly educated black man in America, in 1897 joined the faculty of Atlanta University and taught there for several years. His experience and research in Georgia informed his famous book The Souls of Black Folk.

Agrarian Rebellion[]

While Grady and other proponents of the New South insisted on Georgia's urban future, the state's economy remained overwhelmingly dependent on cotton. Much of the industrialization that did occur was as a subsidiary of cotton agriculture; many of the states new textile factories were devoted to the manufacture of cotton bags. The price per pound of cotton plummeted from $1 at the end of the Civil War to an average of 20 cents in the 1870s, nine cents in the 1880s, and seven cents in the 1890s.[11] By 1898, it had fallen to five cents a pound-while costing seven cents to produce.[12] Once prosperous planters were reduced to fledgling small farmers, while thousands of freemen preferred to become tenant farmers or sharecroppers rather than hire themselves out to labor gangs. Through the lien system, small-county merchants assumed a central role in cotton production, monopolizing the supply of equipment, fertilizers, seeds and foodstuffs needed to make sharecropping possible. As cotton prices plummeted below production costs, by the 1890s, 80-90% of cotton growers, whether owner or tenant, were in debt to lien merchants.[13]

Indebted Georgia cotton growers responded by embracing the 'agrarian radicalism' manifested, successively, in the 1870s with the Granger movement, in the 1880s with the Farmers' Alliance, and in the 1890s with the Populist Party. In 1892, Congressman Tom Watson joined the Populists, becoming the most visible spokesman for their predominately Western Congressional delegation. Southern Populists denounced the convict lease system, while urging white and black small farmers to unite on the basis of shared economic self-interest. They generally refrained from advocating social equality.

In his essay 'The Negro Question in the South,' Watson framed his appeal for a united front between black and white farmers declaring:

"You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both."[14]

Southern Populists did not share their Western counterparts' emphasis on Free Silver and bitterly opposed their desire for fusion with the Democratic Party. They had faced death threats, mob violence and ballot-box stuffing to challenge the monopoly of their states' Bourbon Democrat political machines. The merger with the Democratic Party in the 1896 Presidential election dealt a fatal blow to Southern Populism. The Populists nominated Watson as William Jennings Bryan's vice-president, but Bryan selected New England industrialist Arthur Sewall as a concession to Democratic leaders.

Watson was not reelected. As the Populist Party disintegrated, through his periodical The Jeffersonian, Watson crusaded as a vigorous anti-Semite, anti-Catholic and white supremacist. He attacked the socialism which had attracted many former Populists. He campaigned with little success for the party's candidate for President in 1904 and 1908. Watson continued to exert influence in Georgia politics, and provided a key endorsement in the gubernatorial campaign of M. Hoke Smith.

A former cabinet member in Grover Cleveland's administration, M. Hoke Smith broke with Cleveland because of his support for Bryan. Hoke Smith's tenure as governor was noted for the passage of new Jim Crow laws that required literacy tests and property ownership for voting. Because a grandfather clause was used to waive those requirements for whites, the legislation effectively secured the disfranchisement of African-Americans. The undertaking also relied on the vigilante system of lynch-law.

Boll weevil to World War II[]

The lynching of Leo Frank.

In the early 1900s, Georgia's manufacturing and agriculture grew. The cotton industry benefited from the depradations of the boll weevil further west, and, in 1911, Georgia produced a record 2.8 million bales of cotton. However, four years later, the boll weevil arrived in Georgia, and by 1921 reached such epidemic proportions that it destr;plp,[lm;l;k;oyed 45% of the states' cotton crop.[15] World War I drove cotton prices to a high of $1 a pound in 1919, but quickly fell to 10 cents. Landowners ruined by the boll weevil and declining prices were forced to expel their sharecroppers, significant numbers of whom migrated to the northern industrial states as factory jobs began to open up during the war, the beginning of the Great Migration.[16]

In the security frenzy triggered by the outbreak of World War I in Europe, Georgia was thrust into the national spotlight by the notorious trial and lynching of Atlanta Jewish pencil factory owner Leo Frank, accused of raping and murdering a white female employee, twelve year old Mary Phagan. The ringleaders of the lynch mob which murdered Frank in the Marietta town square in 1917, calling themselves 'The Knights of Mary Phagan,' included a number of prominent politicians, most notably former Governor Joseph Mackey Brown, while Watson played a leading role lin instigating the violence. The trial led to a campaign for the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, which was refounded in a ceremony atop Stone Mountain in November 1915. With Atlanta as its Imperial City, the Klan quickly came to occupy a powerful role in state and municipal politics. Governor Clifford Walker, who served from 1923 to 1927, was closely associated with the Klan. By the end of the decade, the organization suffered from a number of scandals and internal feuds. Klan membership in the state declined from 156,000 in 1925 to 1,400 in 1930.[17]

The Great Depression considerably worsened the states economic situation, with collapsing demand for cotton and other agricultural staples compounded by ecological havoc wrecked by poor land-use strategies. However, in most rural parts of the state, the effects of the Depression were less apparent than in the nation as a whole, because they had been struggling with an on and off depression throughout the 1920s. Georgia was one of the greatest beneficiaries of the New Deal, which brought major advances in rural electrification, housing and road construction, education, and health care. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a particularly close relationship with Georgia, establishing a home in the therapeutic waters of Warm Springs, which became known as the 'Little White House.' The Agricultural Adjustment Act, enacted during Roosevelt's first 100 days in office, paid farmers to plant less cotton, and, from 1932 and 1936, succeeded in raising the price of cotton from five to fifteen cents a pound. Between 1933 and 1940, the New Deal brought $250 million to Georgia, establishing a series of agencies that offered extensive public works projects, including rural electrification programs, libraries, schools, parks, roads and the nation's first public housing project and slum clearance.[18]

Roosevelt's programs faced considerable opposition from Georgia's powerful governor Eugene Talmadge. A former Agriculture Commissioner whose claims to be a 'real dirt farmer' won him the loyalty of his small-town and rural constituencies, in his four terms as Governor (1933-37) he sought to subvert many New Deal programs. Appealing to white supremacy, he denounced New Deal programs that paid black workers wages equal to whites, and attacked what he described as the communist tendencies of the New Deal. In the 1936 election, he unsuccessfully attempted to run for the Senate, losing to pro-New Deal incumbent Richard Russell, while the candidate he endorsed for Governor was also defeated. Under the pro-New Deal administration of for State House speaker E.D. Rivers Georgia came, by 1940, to lead the nation in the number of Rural Electrification Cooperatives and rural public housing projects.[19] Talmadge was re-elected Governor in 1940, but suffered from a scandal caused by his firing of a dean of the University of Georgia system, on the grounds that he advocated racial equality, leading the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to withdraw accreditation from the state's white colleges. In 1942, Tamladge was defeated in his bid for reelection, suffering because of the scandal and the popularity of Roosevelt. In 1946, he was reelected by opposing a federal court ruling invalidating the white primary, but died before taking office. The administration was often able to circumvent Talmadge's opposition by working with pro-New Deal politicians, most notably Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield.

Wartime factory production during World War II lifted Georgia's economy out of recession. Marietta's Bell Aircraft plant, the principle assembly site for the B-29 Superfortress bomber, employed some 28,000 people at its peak, Robins Air Field near Macon employed some 13,000 civilians, Fort Benning became the world's largest infantry training school, newly-opened Fort Gordon became a major deployment center, while shipyards in Savannah and Brunswick built many of the Liberty Ships used to transport war matériel to the European and Pacific Theatres. Following the cesation of hostilities, the states urban centers continued to thrive. In 1946, the Communicable Disease Center, later called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was founded in Atlanta from the old Malaria Control in War Areas offices and staff. From 1946 to 1955, some 500 new factories were constructed in the state.[20] By 1950, more Georgians were employed in manufacturing than farming. At the same time, the mechanization of agriculture dramatically reduced the need for farm laborers, precipitating an urban migration of former sharecroppers and tenant farmers, mostly to the urban Midwest and Northeast, but also to the states own burgeoning urban centers. During the war, Atlanta's Candler Field was the nations busiest airport in terms of flight operation, and afterwards Mayor Hartsfield lobbied successfully to make the city a hub of commercial air travel, based on its strategic location in relation to the nation's major population centers.

Civil Rights Movement[]

Martin Luther King's tomb, located on the grounds of the King Center

Georgia was an important battleground in the American Civil Rights Movement. Governor Marvin Griffin denounced Brown v. Board of Education, pledging to keep Georgia's schools segregated, "come hell or high water".[21] Atlanta-born Baptist minister Martin Luther King emerged in the national spotlight through his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The success of the boycott led to the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta in 1957, providing the political leadership for the Civil Rights movement. In 1958, a a Reform Jewish temple in Atlanta was bombed by a group called the 'Confederate Underground,' in retaliation for Jewish support of the Civil Rights movement. The SCLC committed much of its resources to a desegregation campaign in Albany in 1961, but, with the local police chief restraining the violent attacks on demonstrators that had inflamed national opinion elsewhere, this campaign failed to achieve any dramatic victories. However, the Albany campaign taught King and the SCLC important lessons they would put into use in the more successful Birmingham campaign of 1963-64, which forced John F. Kennedy to submit a Civil Rights bill to Congress, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen testified before Congress in support of the Civil Rights Act, and Governor Carl Sanders worked with the Kennedy administration to ensure the states compliance. Atlanta Constitution editor and syndicated columnist Ralph McGill earned admiration, enmity and several death threats by writing in support of the civil rights movement. However, the majority of white Georgians continued to oppose integration. In 1964, Barry Goldwater won a majority of votes in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, because of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. In 1968 arch-segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace won these three states when he ran an independent for the Presidency. In 1966, Lester Maddox, who gained fame by threatening black civil rights demonstrators attempting to enter his restaurant, was elected Governor. He stubbornly agitated against integration, preventing the body of Martin Luther King from lying in state at the capital after his assassination. However, in 1969, the U.S. Department of Justice successfully filed a lawsuit against the state to finally integrate the public schools. In 1970, newly-elected Governor Jimmy Carter declared in his inaugural address that the era of racial segregation had ended. King's former lieutenant Andrew Young became the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to Congress in 1972, and in 1974, the city of Atlanta elected its first black mayor, Maynard Jackson.

Sun Belt growth and the New Right[]

In 1980, construction was completed on the William B. Hartsfield International Airport opened, the largest in the world, designed to accommodate up to 55 million passengers a year. The airport became a major engine for economic growth, and, along with cheap real estate, low taxes, anti-union Right-to-work laws and lax corporate regulations, made the Atlanta metropolitan area a national center of finance, insurance, and real estate, as well as the convention and trade show business. As a testement to the cities growing international profile, in 1990 the International Olympic Committee selected Atlanta as the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Taking advantage of its status as a transportation hub, UPS established its headquarters in an Atlanta suburb in 1991. In 1992, construction finished on Bank of America Plaza, the tallest building in the U.S. outside New York or Chicago.

The association of the Democratic Party with the Left transformed Georgia, along with the rest of the formerly Democrat Solid South, into a Republican stronghold. Realignment was hastened by the turbulent one-term Presidency of native-son Jimmy Carter, the popularity of Reagan and the growth of the Religious Right. In 1992, Paul Coverdell became the first Republican Senator from Georgia since the end of Reconstruction. When newly elected President Bill Clinton moved to the left on social issues, most notably gays in the military, the Christian Coalition, whose leader, Ralph E. Reed, had close ties to Georgia, mobilized evangelical and fundamentalist Christian voters in support of Republican candidates during the 1994 midterm elections. Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich, representing the wealthy northern suburbs of Atlanta and the acknowledged leader of the Republican Revolution, was elected Speaker of the House. Another Georgia Republican Congressmen, Bob Barr, introduced the Defense of Marriage Act and led the campaign to impeach Bill Clinton.

Georgia also gained notoriety as a center of radical right-wing terrorism. During the 1996 Olympics, after the International Olympic Committee condemned the anti-homosexuality resolutions of one Atlanta county, a militant Christian fundamentalist named Eric Robert Rudolph detonated a bomb that killed one person and wounded 111. The organization to which he was linked, the Army of God, carried out bombings of an Atlanta lesbian nightclub and abortion clinic the following year.

In this political climate, Georgia's leading Democrat, Governor Zell Miller (1990-99), shifted to the right. After being appointed to the Senate following the death of Coverdell in 2000, he emerged as a prominent ally of George W. Bush on the war in Iraq, Social Security privatization, tax cuts, and opposition to gay marriage, delivering a controversial keynote speech in the 2004 Republican convention where he endorsed Bush for reelection and denounced his Democrat colleagues. In 2002, Georgia elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Sonny Perdue, who campaigned against a controversial redesign of the state flag that removed the Confederate battle emblem.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ See Image:Poster united states 1783 1803 shephard1923.png
  4. ^
  5. ^ Rogers Smith, Civic Ideals Pg. 257-8 (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1997)
  6. ^
  7. ^, Historical Census Browser
  8. ^
  9. ^ Textile manufacturing in Atlanta centered around outlying mill-towns, such as Scottdale
  10. ^
  11. ^ C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (Oxford University Press: Oxford and New York, 1938), Pg. 132
  12. ^ Gerald Gaither, Blacks and the Populist Movement: Ballots and Bigotry in the New South (University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, AL, 2005) Pg. 2
  13. ^ Sarah Soule, ‘Populism and Black Lynching in Georgia, 1890-1900’ Pg. 435 Social Forces: Vol. 71, No. 2
  14. ^ C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, Pg. 220
  15. ^ 'Cotton Production and the Boll Weevil in Georgia' Pg. 11,
  16. ^ Aristide Zoldberg, A Nation By Design (Oxford University Press, 2005), Pg. 255
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ [1]


  • New Georgia Encyclopedia (2005). Scholarly resource covering all topics.
  • Andy Ambrose. Atlanta: An Illustrated History Hill Street Press, 2003. ISBN 1-58818-086-7, 200+ photographs
  • Bartley, Numan V. The Creation of Modern Georgia (1990). Scholarly history 1865-1990.
  • Coleman, Kenneth. ed. A History of Georgia (1991). Survey by scholars.
  • Coulter, E. Merton. A Short History of Georgia (1933)
  • Franklin Miller Garrett. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (1969), 2 vol.
  • Steve Goodson. Highbrows, Hillbillies, and Hellfire: Public Entertainment in Atlanta, 1880-1930 University of Georgia Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8203-2319-5.)
  • Donald L. Grant. The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia 1993
  • London, Bonta Bullard. (1999) Georgia: The History of an American State Montgomery, Alabama: Clairmont Press ISBN 1-56733-994-8. A middle school textbook.

Scholarly studies to 1900[]

  • Bass, James Horace. "The Attack upon the Confederate Administration in Georgia in the Spring of 1864." Georgia Historical Quarterly 18 (1934): 228-247.
  • Bass, James Horace. "The Georgia Gubernatorial Elections of 1861 and 1863." Georgia Historical Quarterly 17 (1935): 167-188
  • Bryan, T. Conn. Confederate Georgia University of Georgia Press, 1953.
  • Coleman, Kenneth. Confederate Athens, 1861-1865 University of Georgia Press, 1967.
  • Charles L. Flynn Jr., White Land, Black Labor: Caste and Class in Late Nineteenth-Century Georgia (LSU Press 1983)
  • William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson; Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860 Oxford University Press, 1992
  • Hahn Steven. The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850-1890. Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Hamilton, Peter Joseph. The Reconstruction Period (1906), full length history of era; Dunning School approach; 570 pp; ch 12 on Georgia
  • Miles, Jim To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of the War in the West: Sherman's March Across Georgia, 1864 Cumberland House Publishing(2002)
  • Clarence L. Mohr. On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia (1986)
  • Parks, Joseph H. Joseph E. Brown of Georgia. LSU Press, 1977.
  • Parks, Joseph H. "State Rights in a Crisis: Governor Joseph E. Brown versus President Jefferson Davis." Journal of Southern History 32 (1966): 3-24. online at JSTOR
  • Darden Asbury Pyron; ed. Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture University Press of Florida. (1983)
  • Joseph P. Reidy; From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880 University of North Carolina Press, (1992)
  • Saye, Albert B. New Viewpoints in Georgia History 1943.
  • Schott, Thomas E. Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia: A Biography. LSU Press, 1988.
  • Thompson, William Y. Robert Toombs of Georgia. LSU Press, 1966.
  • Wallenstein; Peter. From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia University of North Carolina Press, 1987
  • Werner, Randolph D. "The New South Creed and the Limits of Radicalism: Augusta, Georgia, before the 1890s" Journal of Southern History v 57 #3 2001. pp 573+.
  • Woodward, C. Vann. Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (1938)
  • Woolley; Edwin C. The Reconstruction of Georgia (1901 )Dunning School

Since 1900[]

  • Karen Ferguson; Black Politics in New Deal Atlanta University of North Carolina Press, 2002
  • Gary M. Fink; Prelude to the Presidency: The Political Character and Legislative Leadership Style of Governor Jimmy Carter Greenwood Press, 1980
  • Gilbert C. Fite; Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia University of North Carolina Press, 1991
  • Douglas Flamming; Creating the Modern South: Millhands and Managers in Dalton, Georgia, 1884-1984 University of North Carolina Press, 1992
  • William Warren Rogers. Transition to the Twentieth Century: Thomas County, Georgia, 1900-1920 2002. vol 4 of comprehensive history of one county.
  • Peirce, Neal R. The Deep South States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Seven Deep South States (1974). Reporting on politics and economics 1960-72
  • Thomas Allan Scott. Cobb County, Georgia, and the Origin of the Suburban South: A Twentieth Century History (2003).
  • Mel Steely. The Gentleman from Georgia: The Biography of Newt Gingrich Mercer University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-86554-671-1.
  • Stephen G. N. Tuck. Beyond Atlanta: The Struggle for Racial Equality in Georgia, 1940-1980 . University of Georgia Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8203-2265-2.)
  • C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (1938)

Primary sources[]

  • Scott, Thomas Allan ed. Cornerstones of Georgia History: Documents That Formed the State (1995). Collection of primary sources.

Online Primary sources[]

  • Biographical Memorials of James Oglethorpe, by Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1841
  • A Brief Description and Statistical Sketch of Georgia, United States of America: developing its immense agricultural, mining and manufacturing advantages, with remarks on emigration. Accompanied with a map & description of lands for sale in Irwin County, By Richard Keily, 1849.
  • Essay on the Georgia Gold Mines, by William Phillips, 1833 (Excerpt from: American Journal of Science and Arts. New Haven, 1833. Vol. XXIV, No. i, First Series, April (Jan.-March), 1833, pp. 1-18.)
  • An Extract of John Wesley's Journal, from his embarking for Georgia to his return to London, 1739. The journal extends from October 14, 1735, to February 1, 1738.
  • Georgia Scenes, characters, incidents, &c. in the first half century of the Republic, by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1840, 2nd ed)
  • Report on the Brunswick Canal and Rail Road, Glynn County, Georgia. With an appendix containing the charter and commissioners' report, by Loammi Baldwin, 1837
  • Society, A journal devoted to society, art, literature, and fashion, published in Atlanta, Georgia by the Society Pub. Co., 1890-
  • Views of Atlanta, and The Cotton State and International Exposition, 1895
  • Sir John Percival papers, also called: The Egmont Papers, transcripts and manuscripts, 1732-1745.
  • Educational survey of Georgia, by M.L. Duggan, rural school agent, under the direction of the Department of education. M.L. Brittain, state superintendent of schools. Publisher: Atlanta, 1914.
  • Digital Library of Georgia Georgia's history and culture found in digitized books, manuscripts, photographs, government documents, newspapers, maps, audio, video, and other resources.

External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at History of Georgia (U.S. state). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.