Georgia is a state in the United States of America. Founded in 1733, Georgia was the last of the 13 original English colonies to be established in what is now the United States. Georgia emerged as a state during the American Revolution (1775-1783), and Georgians were among the first signers of the Declaration of Independence. On January 2, 1788, Georgia became the fourth state, and the first Southern one, to ratify the Constitution of the Constitution of the United States.
Introduction to Georgia - Video
Native Americans are known to have lived in Georgia for more than 10,000 years. About 4,000 years ago they began making pottery vessels, which allowed them to store food year round. Agriculture began in the area about 3,000 years ago. About 1,200 years ago the people of the Mississippian culture, also called Mound Builders, were building great temple mounds, as can be seen today at Ocmulgee National Monument or Kolomoki Mounds State Park. By the time Europeans arrived in the 1500s, more than 1 million people lived in the American South. Unfortunately, the newcomers brought diseases against which the residents had no immunity. The death toll from smallpox, diphtheria, measles, and other illnesses was tremendous. It is estimated that the Native American population dropped by at least half between 1500 and 1700. By the time the British colonized Georgia in the 1730s the Cherokee and Creek, who then occupied it, were much fewer in number than their predecessors. The Spanish were the first Europeans in Georgia. Explorer Hernando de Soto landed in Florida in 1539, and in 1540 his expedition crossed the Savannah and Ocmulgee rivers. In 1566 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded a mission and fort on Saint Catherines Island. Over the next 100 years the Spanish built forts and missions along the coast of Georgia, which they called Guale. Franciscan friars, members of a Roman Catholic religious order, were the central agents of Spanish civilization. In the mid-1590s a dozen priests and lay brothers, supported by a few Spanish soldiers, established missions to convert the Native Americans along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to South Carolina. About half were located in the principal villages of Guale. Their efforts were rewarded with many converts, but also the first major conflict with Native Americans in Georgia. In 1597 a young Guale man named Juanillo, angry that a priest had blocked his selection as mico (chief), killed the meddling cleric. He then launched a war that left most of the Franciscans dead. The war continued about ten months and ended only after a Spanish army arrived from Florida. Afterward the Franciscans returned, and in the first half of the 17th century they were highly successful. At one time they had 25,000 converts in 38 missions. This was the golden age of Spanish influence in the South. Spain claimed the right to govern Guale, but its claim was contested. England asserted a claim in 1629, when King Charles I included the area in a land grant of “Carolana” to Sir Robert Heath. However, because Heath failed to establish a settlement there, King Charles II regranted Carolana—changing its name slightly to Carolina—to eight lords proprietors in 1663. After founding a colony at Charleston (now in South Carolina) in 1670, the Carolinians pushed southward along the Atlantic coast. In 1680, with Native American allies, they attacked the Spanish missions and outposts and forced the Spanish to give up Saint Catherines Island. By 1686 the Spanish abandoned Guale, but for more than 70 years they continued to fight for possession from their bases in Florida. As England’s power grew, the countries of Scotland and Wales were united under the English king in a nation called Great Britain, which continued the policy of granting proprietary colonies in America. In 1732 Great Britain’s king, George II, granted to James E. Oglethorpe, John Perceval, and others a charter for a colony to be called Georgia. Georgia was to include all the land between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, extending west to the Pacific Ocean. Oglethorpe and his associates, who were called the “trustees” of Georgia, planned to found a refuge for the poor, especially those in debtors’ prisons, and the victims of religious persecution in Europe. In addition, the king wanted a buffer colony to protect the Carolinas from the Spanish in Florida and the French in Louisiana. It was also hoped that the colony would produce silk, wine, and other goods for the British market. Early in 1733, Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River and landed at Yamacraw Bluff, 27 km (17 mi) upstream. There he met the Yamacraw people, a friendly Native American band of outlaw Creek, who ceded the site to him. On February 12, 1733, he returned with more than 100 colonists and laid out the town of Savannah, the first permanent European settlement in Georgia. In 1736 Oglethorpe founded Augusta at the Fall Line, the southern end of the Piedmont Plateau, 320 km (200 mi) up the Savannah River. Next Oglethorpe journeyed to the southern border, where he built Fort Frederica on Saint Simons Island to defend against the Spanish in Florida. In 1739 the War of Jenkins’s Ear broke out between Great Britain and Spain, and there was skirmishing on the southern frontier. In 1742 a Spanish force invaded Georgia. In the subsequent Battle of Bloody Marsh, near Fort Frederica, Oglethorpe and his troops defeated the invaders. This ended Spanish attempts to capture Georgia. Over the next two decades the colonists were joined by German Lutherans and members of other persecuted religious groups from central Europe, as well as by Scots, Welsh, northern Italians, and Swiss. Oglethorpe hoped to create a model society, where none would be rich or poor. Those sent to Georgia at the trustees’ expense received 20.2 hectares (50 acres) of land and supplies to get them started. Individuals paying their own way received up to 202 hectares (500 acres). But no family was allowed to sell, lease, or even will the land away. They were expected to support themselves off the land through their own labor. To ensure that everyone was a sober, hard worker, the trustees in 1735 prohibited strong drink and outlawed slavery. Georgia was the only British colony in North America to have such laws. Although many of Georgia’s first settlers were poor or otherwise unfortunate, few of them came from debtors’ prisons. The objectives of the trustees were soon called into question. The settlers were less interested in the security the trustees provided than in the opportunity to grow rich. “Clamorous malcontents” maintained that the colony would never grow until people could buy and sell all the land they wanted and have slaves to work the fields. They asserted they could not compete successfully against other colonies because wage labor cost the farm owner much more than slave labor. The trustees countered that the presence of slavery would make free workers lazy and would make defense more difficult. A few who sided with Oglethorpe also raised the issue of human rights, declaring it “shocking to human Nature, that any Race of Mankind, and their Posterity, should be sentenced to perpetual Slavery.” In the end the malcontents won and the trustees had to abandon their plans. By 1750 slavery was legal, land could be transferred, liquor could be made and sold, and Georgia had lost the features that made it unique. In 1752 the trustees surrendered their charter to the king, and two years later Georgia became a royal colony. The government now consisted of a governor and royal council, appointed by the king, and a legislature elected by the colonists. The colony began to prosper. A profitable plantation economy developed, based on slavery. Rice, indigo, and wheat were cultivated, and cattle and hogs were raised. The fur trade with the Native Americans flourished, lumber was cut, and naval stores (pitch and tar) were produced. Georgia exported food and other goods to Great Britain in return for British manufactures and for slaves, sugar, rum, and molasses from the West Indies. The settler population, which was less than 5,000 in 1752, grew rapidly after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. After that war, which ended French competition in North America and transferred Florida to British control, Georgia’s western limit was set at the Mississippi River; its southern boundary with Florida was extended to the Saint Marys River. However, only the eastern part of the colony was settled. All the area west of the Appalachians was set aside by the king’s proclamation as a Native American reservation. By 1776 Georgia’s settler population was about 40,000, half of them black slaves. In the colonial era women had far fewer rights than men and were generally expected to stay out of the public eye. Nonetheless, a few women gained respect for their achievements. Mary Musgrove was a half-Creek, half-English merchant who ran a trading post near Savannah when Oglethorpe arrived. As a broker in the fur trade, she played a major role in preserving the peace between the Native Americans and the colonists. She helped Oglethorpe as an interpreter and negotiator. She also extended supplies on credit to the colonists, and even helped recruit Native American warriors for Oglethorpe’s battles with the Spanish. Musgrove was rewarded when the colony recognized her title to Saint Catherines Island. One of the wealthiest white settlers was Abigail Minis, a Jewish resident of Savannah, who arrived in 1733 with her husband Abraham. Their son Philip was born a year later, one of the first white babies born in Georgia. Abraham died in 1757 after building a modest fortune from agriculture and trade. His widow lived another 37 years and greatly increased the family holdings. She strongly supported the patriot cause in the American Revolution (1775-1783), assisting the patriots’ Continental Army with provisions and supplies. By the time she died in 1794, she owned 20 slaves and several thousand acres of land spread through at least four counties. In addition to an active involvement in trade, she owned a tavern in Savannah. Mary Musgrove and Abigail Minis could not vote or hold office and had few civil rights. They were widely respected, however, for the extraordinary talents they employed in service to early Georgia. Before the revolution, Georgia depended more than any of the other 12 rebelling colonies on financial aid and protection from Great Britain. The last royal governor, James Wright, was widely admired as an effective administrator who negotiated Native American treaties in 1763 and 1773, opening 2.4 million hectares (6 million acres) of land to settlement. Thus, many Georgians believed that British rule was to their advantage and were less opposed than other colonials to British taxes and regulations. For example, when Great Britain imposed the Stamp Act tax in 1765, many Americans objected because they had had no voice in the legislative process. In 12 colonies the Sons of Liberty, a secret patriotic society, were so effective in terrorizing British officials that the measure was never enforced. The one exception was Georgia, where for a short time Governor Wright was able to collect the tax. Due in part to Native American troubles, Georgia was the only colony not to send delegates in 1774 to the First Continental Congress, where the colonies pondered strategies of resistance to Great Britain. However, after resistance turned into battle at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in April 1775, pro-independence Georgians seized control of their government and chose delegates to the Second Continental Congress. At the Continental Congress in 1776, Lyman Hall, George Walton, and Button Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence for Georgia. In the same year, Georgia’s revolutionary government adopted a temporary constitution, the Rules and Regulations, and elected a president, Archibald Bulloch, and a council of safety. Early in 1777 a permanent state constitution was adopted. It provided for a unicameral (single-house) legislature and for a governor and executive council elected by the legislature. John A. Treutlen was elected as the first governor. In 1789 a new constitution changed the legislature to a bicameral (two-house) body. In 1778 the British captured Savannah, and within a few months they overran most of Georgia and reestablished British rule. The Continental Army failed to dislodge them from Savannah, but bloody guerrilla fighting continued in outlying areas. Augusta was finally liberated in 1781, and the British troops evacuated Savannah in 1782. On January 2, 1788, a state convention meeting at Augusta voted unanimously to adopt the Constitution of the United States; Georgia was the fourth state and the first Southern state to do so. Most Georgians supported a strong, central federal Union to protect them against the Native Americans and the Spanish, who had repossessed Florida in 1783. Within a few years, however, conflicts arose between the state and federal authorities. Georgia became a leading advocate of states’ rights, the doctrine that federal powers over the states are strictly limited. Nevertheless, the state supported the Union. In the early years of the Union, thousands of settlers from Virginia, North Carolina, and other nearby states migrated to Georgia. Between 1790 and 1810 the state’s population tripled, from 82,548 to 252,433. Most of the newcomers settled north and west of Savannah. In 1783 Augusta succeeded Savannah as the state capital. As settlement pushed westward, the capital was moved west to Louisville in 1796 and to Milledgeville in 1806. During the 1790s there was widespread speculation in land in Georgia. Corrupt state and local officials made grants of millions more acres than actually existed in the state. Much of the nonexistent land was then sold to outside speculators and companies. The most infamous land scam was the Yazoo Fraud of 1795. The legislature authorized the sale of a vast tract near the Yazoo River to four land companies in which most of the legislators held shares. There was a public outcry, and a new legislature, elected in 1796, canceled the sale and offered refunds to the land companies. However, much of the land had already been resold, and the new buyers insisted on keeping it. In 1802 Georgia ceded the territory to the federal government, which agreed to settle the claims. After the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Yazoo sale valid, Congress in 1814 authorized payment of $4.3 million to the claimants. Georgians saw the War of 1812, between the United States and Britain, as an opportunity to open up more land. On the eve of the war a former governor, George Mathews, led a private army on an abortive invasion of Florida. Despite the fact that the war was with Britain, not Spain, Georgia’s Governor David Mitchell used the excuse of war to lead the Georgia militia on another unauthorized attack on Saint Augustine, Florida, in 1812. The invasion failed, however, and the troops withdrew to Georgia soil. Meanwhile, the Upper Creek, living mainly in Alabama, joined the British against the United States. Georgia volunteers under General John Floyd rushed into the Creek country of southwest Georgia. At the same time, General Andrew Jackson led an army into Alabama and defeated the Upper Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Jackson was supported by 500 Cherokee, who swam the Tallapoosa River to attack the Creek forces from the rear. After the victory Jackson forced the Upper Creek to sign a treaty giving up a large portion of Alabama and Georgia. After the revolution, the United States had made treaties with the Creek and Cherokee recognizing their right to occupy their lands in Georgia forever. At the same time, the federal government sent agents to encourage these nations to adopt white lifestyles. Nevertheless, the administration of President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 made a compact with Georgia that seemed to contradict the treaties. In exchange for Georgia’s claims to Alabama and Mississippi, Georgia was given $1,250,000 and a promise that the federal government would remove the Native Americans as soon as this could be done peacefully and on reasonable terms. When the federal government moved too slowly for impatient Georgians, Governor George Troup in 1825 threatened to remove the Creek by force. By 1827 the Creek signed treaties ceding their remaining lands in Georgia. They then moved west across the Mississippi River to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). With the Creek gone, Georgians turned their attention to the Cherokee nation of north Georgia. The Cherokee had transformed their society to emulate many practices of the whites. In 1821 Sequoyah, a Cherokee scholar, invented a syllabary (alphabet) for writing the Cherokee language. Within a few years the nation adopted a constitution, creating a government that was at least as democratic as that of the surrounding states. They then started a national newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, printed in both Cherokee and English. Commerce and agriculture flourished, and the wealthier Cherokee even used black slaves in their fields. Nonetheless, when gold was discovered in north Georgia in 1828, whites rushed into Cherokee country to try to get rich. The Georgia government illegally extended its authority over north Georgia, and in 1832 held a lottery distributing the Cherokee lands among white citizens of the state. In 1835 the administration of President Andrew Jackson produced a fraudulent treaty, signed by a handful of Cherokee but repudiated by the great majority of the nation. According to this Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were to move west to Indian Territory. They refused to go, so federal troops were sent in 1838 to move them out. About 4000 out of more than 18,000 Cherokee forced from their homes died in stockades or during the journey to the west, known as the “Trail of Tears.” The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in Georgia in 1793, stimulated the extensive cultivation of cotton. The cotton plantation system and slavery spread throughout the state, especially into central and southwest Georgia. In the northern part of the state, subsistence agriculture predominated, with individual farm families doing their own labor. Most commonly they grew corn, wheat, and other food crops. Relatively little cotton was grown in this part of the state before the Civil War. The slave proportion in these counties ranged from about one-quarter of the population to as low as 4 percent in the Blue Ridge Mountain counties. In contrast, by 1860 most of the region between Atlanta and Macon and most of southwest Georgia had majority black populations and grew cotton as well as corn and other staples. Not all of Georgia was highly developed at the time of the Civil War. South-central Georgia, known as the Wiregrass Country, was largely a cattle frontier. In contrast, the Atlantic coast and the Sea Islands had Georgia’s largest plantations, growing large quantities of rice and cotton. For the state as a whole in 1860, four of every nine persons were slaves. While the treatment of slaves varied, all were oppressed by a system that denied them basic rights and liberties. Slavery was perhaps at its worst in its impact on the family, where slave marriages had no legal standing, sexual abuse of women was frequent, and families could be broken up on the master’s whim. Many white families also lived a spartan existence in that era. It is estimated that in 1860 about half of the free families owned no land and three-fifths owned no slaves. Property became increasingly concentrated in a few hands and, by the time of the Civil War, about one-tenth of the people held nine-tenths of the wealth. Georgians not only grew cotton, they also turned it into cloth. The first cotton mill in Georgia was built in 1829 on the Oconee River at White Hall. By the Civil War, Georgia was the South’s leading producer of cotton goods with almost 3,000 workers, 60 percent of whom were women. In addition to cotton cloth, Georgia produced woolen and leather goods, pig iron, paper, shoes, carriages, and a variety of other products. Slavery moved from the field to the factory. In 1860 about 5 percent of the slave labor force was used in industry. Transportation facilities were also expanded throughout the state. Georgia’s first rail line, the Georgia Railroad, chartered in 1833, ran about 160 km (100 mi) from Athens to Augusta. Atlanta began as the starting point of the state-owned Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad, chartered in 1836 to run through the old Cherokee country from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Soon the W&A was linked to three other lines: the Georgia Railroad ran a branch from Union Point to Atlanta; the Central of Georgia came up from Savannah through Macon to Atlanta; and the Atlanta and West Point Railroad carried passengers and freight to Alabama. Georgia’s booming economy fueled a population explosion. Between 1820 and 1840 the population more than doubled, from 341,000 to 691,000. In the 1840s and 1850s it grew by almost half again, passing 1 million by the time of the Civil War. In per-capita wealth, Georgia in 1860 was one of the ten richest states in the Union. Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in Congress in the 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from the Deep South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida) believed that slavery was essential to their cotton-based agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy. By the 1850s, the Southern states were united in bitter opposition to proposed congressional legislation barring slavery from the country’s new Western territories. Many in the South were coming to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves. Yet many of Georgia’s leaders urged compromise. Largely through the efforts of three Georgians, Representatives Alexander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, and Howell Cobb, the Southern states accepted the Compromise Measures of 1850, a series of acts that temporarily settled the issue. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown immediately advocated secession on the basis of the states’ rights doctrine. Stephens argued against it. While he conceded that Georgia had been treated poorly, he asserted that there was nothing to fear from Lincoln. Stephens had known Lincoln for years and argued that he was no enemy of the South. Moreover, Stephens pointed out that Lincoln as a Republican could do little to interfere with slavery because the Democratic Party controlled Congress and did not agree with the Republicans on the issue. Finally, Stephens pleaded for caution, since Georgia was doing well economically within the Union and might do worse if secession led to civil war. Despite Stephens’s best efforts, Georgians voted narrowly for secession in January 1861 and joined other Southern states in forming the Confederate States of America. Stephens pledged to support his state regardless of its decision, and was chosen as vice president of the Confederacy. The American Civil War began officially on April 12, 1861, when South Carolina militia bombarded a federal fort in Charleston harbor. During the war, Georgia was a major source of food, arms, and other supplies for the South until 1864. During the early part of the war the only military action in Georgia occurred along the coast, which was blockaded by Union gunboats. In 1862 Union troops captured Fort Pulaski. The first major battle in Georgia was in September 1863, when Union troops were routed at the Battle of Chickamauga. At Andersonville Prison, near Andersonville, captured Union Army soldiers were confined between February 1864 and April 1865. Out of a total of 49,485 prisoners, about one-fourth of them died from constant exposure to the elements, inadequate food, impure water, congestion, and filth. After the war the prison superintendent, Major Henry Wirz, was tried for war crimes by a U.S. military court and hanged. In the spring of 1864 a Union force, led by General William T. Sherman, invaded Georgia from Tennessee. Sherman and his men took Atlanta in September. After setting fire to the city in November, they resumed their famous march to the sea. Houses in their path were looted, and bridges, railroads, factories, mills, and warehouses were dismantled or burned. Sherman captured Savannah in December and then turned northward and marched into the Carolinas. The Confederacy finally surrendered in April 1865. With men gone off to war, women successfully ran farms and plantations and supported the Confederacy in a variety of other ways. Women as well as men suffered from the invasion of their homes by conquering armies. Writing shortly after the war, Frances Howard of Bartow County noted that: “By the light of their burning homes, Southern women saw their children die of cold and hunger, and they heard the incendiaries laugh as they quoted the words of one of their leaders: ‘The seed of the serpent must be crushed from the land.’ Are these things easily forgotten?” The Civil War brought profound change to Georgia. The most positive result was the end of slavery. Blacks were still denied opportunity at every turn, however, and most found their economic condition only slightly better than under slavery. The war had a devastating effect on white Georgians. Thousands of men failed to return home. The abolition of slavery and destruction of factories and fields wiped out much of the South’s capital. Within a few months of the surrender, white Georgians regained their political rights: President Andrew Johnson permitted them to elect delegates to a state constitutional convention. Johnson’s plan of restoration, or Reconstruction, of the Union was to reestablish the state governments and then readmit the states to Congress. The delegates duly repealed the 1861 ordinance of secession and recognized the abolition of slavery. They failed, however, to give blacks the right to vote or to testify against whites in court. In general, the new constitution maintained white supremacy. Constitutions drafted in the other Confederate states were similar. The legislatures of Georgia and the other states also passed black codes, a series of laws severely restricting the liberties of the newly freed blacks. Partly because of these acts by the Southern states, the radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. In March 1867 Congress put all the ex-Confederate states except Tennessee under military rule. Readmission to the Union was made conditional on their adoption of new constitutions acceptable to Congress. They were required to extend the vote and basic civil rights to all men, regardless of race. The Republican Party now gained control in Georgia, based on a coalition of blacks, businessmen, and white small farmers from the northern mountain counties. This coalition in 1868 elected a Republican governor, Rufus B. Bullock, and a legislature that ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment extended citizenship to anyone born in the United States and promised all people the equal protection of the laws. Georgia was readmitted to the Union in 1870. Republican rule was soon undermined, however, by the violence of a secret terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, which acted as a clandestine arm of the state Democratic Party. In 1868 alone, more than 300 Georgia blacks were murdered or assaulted by white terrorists. It was soon apparent that most white Republicans in Georgia were not strongly committed to equal rights. Several months into the 1868 legislative session, many Republicans joined with the Democrats in expelling black legislators although they had been fairly elected. The following year the legislature failed to ratify the 15th Amendment, which prohibited race from being used as a requirement for voting. Despite a feeble attempt by the U.S. Army to restore order, the Republican Party in Georgia was finished. When a new legislature took office in 1871, Governor Bullock fled the state to avoid being impeached. Despite charges of corruption against the Republicans, it is clear that Democrats were also involved in dirty dealings; and corruption did not end with the return of Democratic rule. The state was under one-party rule by the Democrats for almost the next 100 years. Economically as well as politically, Georgia was greatly disrupted by the war and its aftermath. The state slowly recovered during the latter part of the 19th century. With the aid of Northern as well as Southern capital, new banks and businesses were founded, and railroad and business facilities were restored. After Reconstruction, almost all prominent politicians in Georgia were Democrats. One faction was known as the New Departure, or Bourbon, Democrats, who encouraged industrialization. The cotton textile industry was expanded; the production of cottonseed oil, cattle feed, and fertilizer was undertaken. In the 1870s, Georgia became a major source of naval stores, and other natural resources were developed. Atlanta, which became the state capital in 1868, grew into a prosperous manufacturing and commercial center. The hands of the Bourbons were tied, however, by a new constitution in 1877, which prohibited state debt, limited state funding of public schools to the elementary grades, prevented most forms of aid to business, and guaranteed rural control of the legislature. In general, farmers wanted low property taxes and few government services, so the state was prevented from doing much to attract industry. Southern businesses were further handicapped by discriminatory railroad rates, which favored Northern over Southern shippers. Not surprisingly, Georgia and the South lagged far behind the rest of the country economically. Agriculture remained the chief economic activity, but many large cotton and rice plantations, formerly dependent on slave labor, were broken up into smaller farms operated by tenant farmers or sharecroppers. Rice production ceased, but the production of cotton, emphasized under the sharecropping system, continued to increase. A modest trend toward diversified farming began in the 1890s with the introduction of peach trees. Soon Georgia was noted for its peach, apple, and pecan orchards. Still, Georgia remained dependent on the cotton crop. A symptom of Georgia’s agricultural stagnation was the high rate of sharecropping and tenant farming. By 1910 half the white farmers and 87 percent of the blacks did not own the farms they operated. Sharecropping and tenant farming were substitutes for paid farm labor where little cash was available to pay wages. A sharecropper raised part of the landlord’s crop and was paid a share of the profits after deductions for living expenses and the cost of tools and supplies. A tenant farmer sold what he raised and paid the landlord a share of the profits as rent. The landlord chose the crop to raise and either owned it (in sharecropping) or had a lien on it (in tenant farming). If the profit was low, the landlord’s share was paid first. The cropper or tenant took what was left or, if none was left, got an advance to keep going for another year. In the effort to recover financially, landowners relied almost exclusively on their traditional cash crop, cotton. However, the price of cotton was low through the rest of the century, while living costs rose. Mounting debt forced small farmers to give up their land and become tenants or sharecroppers. Once in that system, they were forced to remain because they could seldom earn enough to pay off their yearly advances. Not until World War II (1939-1945), when widespread mechanization of agriculture made sharecropping unprofitable, did the system begin to disappear. Some impoverished whites were able to escape from the fields to the factories. However, Georgia industry demanded low skills and paid low wages. Company paternalism protected workers to some degree, as mill owners typically provided housing, schools, hospitals, and churches. Nonetheless, even young women in the Georgia mills were described in 1891 by an observer as carrying “the weight of a century on their bowed backs ... a slouching gait; a drooping chest ... yellow, blotched complexion; dead-looking hair; stained lips, destitute of color and revealing broken teeth—these are the dower of girlhood in the mills.” During the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, industry offered little opportunity for Georgia workers to rise in society. As elsewhere in the nation, small farmers suffered as wealth created by commerce and manufacturing was concentrated in the hands of a few business barons. Among the causes of unrest were the declining prices of farm products, the growing indebtedness of farmers to merchants and banks, and discriminatory freight rates imposed on farmers by the railroads. In the 1870s and 1880s American farmers in the Midwest formed self-help groups such as the Grange and Farmers’ Alliance. The movement spread nationwide and was called populism. When these organizations decided that agricultural grievances had to be addressed with political action, they formed an important third political party, the People’s Party. A leading spokesperson for both the Alliance and the People’s Party was Congressman Thomas Watson of Georgia. His radical views, his willingness to appeal to black farmers, and his outspoken attacks on the two major parties made the 1892 election in his Tenth District a focus of national attention. The dominance of the state Democratic Party, which stood for white power, was seriously threatened, and they stole the election using a variety of methods. Watson’s opponent, Major James Black, publicly warned of the specter of black “domination.” Newspapers inveighed against “anarchy and communism.” Ballot box stuffing, intimidation, and bribery were used flagrantly. In one county the election judges accepted a total vote, overwhelmingly for Black, that was far beyond the number of registered voters in the county. Watson fought through several bitter losing campaigns for the People’s Party, running for vice president and president, among other offices, before the party faded in 1908. Ironically, in his embittered old age, when he had turned into an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic white supremacist, he was finally elected a Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia in 1920. He died in office in 1922. The populists’ coalition of black and white farmers had fallen apart after 1896 as a result of intimidation and white susceptibility to racist Democratic appeals. Segregation of the races, through separate public facilities for whites and blacks, became a basic rule in Georgia and all Southern society in the last two decades of the 19th century. Blacks had to live in different parts of towns, go to separate schools, eat at separate restaurants, and use different laundries, restrooms, and even drinking fountains. The facilities provided for blacks were never as good as those provided for whites. The poll tax and other devices were instituted to prevent most blacks from voting. During World War I (1914-1918) the country’s needs stimulated growth in Georgia’s industries, and Georgia farmers profited from high wartime prices for their crops. Good times continued into the 1920s for Atlanta, Georgia’s largest city. Atlanta’s growth was largely a product of Georgia’s excellent network of railroads, which brought trade and tourist dollars to Atlanta. The Coca-Cola Company, started in the 1880s, was the city’s best known industrial concern. Under the leadership of Robert Woodruff, Coca-Cola in the 1920s began to expand its markets throughout the world. Atlanta was also a banking and insurance center. During the early part of the 20th century, Atlanta became a premier cultural center for the Deep South. It was the home of a symphony orchestra, numerous blues and country music performers, and a number of colleges for blacks and whites. In rural areas, however, prosperity did not last long after the war. During the early 1920s much of the state’s cotton crop was destroyed by the boll weevil. In addition, the soil in many areas was exhausted by overproduction and erosion. Thousands abandoned the farms and migrated to cities and towns. So many blacks left the region for Northern cities that their exodus is called the Great Migration. The hard times of the 1920s were followed by the even harder times of the Great Depression, which lasted through the 1930s. By the 1940s, the old plantation system was gone. The number of farms had declined and the remaining farmers consolidated their holdings and began to operate increasingly with machinery. Diversification became a necessity, with peanuts, soybeans, cattle, poultry, and tree farms replacing cotton. During the early 1930s, Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr., was instrumental in reorganizing some branches of the state government. One major change was the placing of all of the separate state-supported institutions of higher learning under the administration of a single state board of regents. Eugene Talmadge, who succeeded Russell as governor in 1933, was the major figure in Georgia politics for the next 12 years. In his first two terms he strenuously opposed the attempt of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration to establish its New Deal programs of economic relief in the state. However, Talmadge’s successor, Eurith D. Rivers, was a Roosevelt supporter, and various federal and state relief programs were carried out in Georgia during his two terms. The state’s revenues failed to meet the cost of its relief services, however, and Talmadge was elected again in 1940 on a platform of economy in state government. He continued most of Rivers’s programs despite his past opposition to them. After Governor Ellis Arnall took office in 1943, Georgia entered a period of progressive change. It became the first state in the nation to lower the voting age to 18. Before most Deep South states, Georgia in 1945 abolished the poll tax. A merit system was instituted for jobs in state government, and a new constitution was adopted. Arnall went to the U.S. Supreme Court with a case against the railroads, forcing them to charge the same freight rates in the South as they did in other parts of the nation. Between 1943 and 1947, Arnall achieved the most remarkable record of progressive reform that Georgia had seen to that time. Rapid change, however, was not favored by all, and provoked a backlash in “Gene Talmadge country,” the rural areas of south Georgia. Talmadge was elected governor for the fourth time in 1946, but died before inauguration. The legislature then chose his son, Herman, as governor on the grounds that he had received the largest number of write-in votes in the election. Arnall, maintaining that the governorship should go to the lieutenant governor-elect, Melvin E. Thompson, refused to leave his office on inauguration day. Talmadge then forcibly occupied the office. Thompson set up a government in exile in downtown Atlanta, and for 67 days Georgia had two governors. Finally the state supreme court ruled in favor of Thompson, and he was sworn in. In a special election in 1948, however, Herman Talmadge defeated Thompson and served the last two years of his father’s term. Talmadge was reelected in 1950, and later represented the state in the U.S. Senate for 24 years. From the Civil War to the mid-20th century, Georgia was one of the poorest states in the Union; the only states as poor were other Southern states. Indeed, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt made a speech in Georgia declaring the South to be “the Nation’s No. 1 economic problem.” In 1940 the average Georgia family earned only 57 percent as much as the typical family nationwide. The American entry into World War II in 1941 began the economic revival of Georgia and the South. Military bases were created or expanded near virtually all sizable Georgia towns. Federal dollars poured into the region to build airplanes, ships, and munitions for the war effort. Suddenly there were more good jobs at decent pay than Georgians had ever known. A good example of the economic impact of the war is the Bell Aircraft Company, which converted Marietta from a sleepy town to a booming industrial center. Bell built a plant in Marietta in 1942 to build B-29 bombers for the war effort. A town of about 8,000 in 1940, Marietta became the home of a business employing almost 29,000 workers, and at much higher wages than Southerners were accustomed to earning. With a large number of men off fighting, a significant part of the workforce consisted of women. Despite Southern customs of segregation, Bell also provided some opportunities for blacks. Although the Bell plant closed at the end of the war, it was reopened by Lockheed Corporation in 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War. In the 1990s, Lockheed continued to be a major employer, relying primarily on government contracts. When the war ended, soldiers returned home to households with much more spending money than in the past. By 1950 the average Georgia family income was 70 percent of the national average, and Georgians continued to narrow the income gap during the next several decades. National corporations, noting the healthier economy of the South, established regional headquarters in cities such as Atlanta. The availability of air conditioning made the hot, humid Southern summers less of a deterrent to Northerners. The war also improved the training of Georgia’s industrial workforce. A number of Northern industries moved south, attracted by the large labor pool, low wage scale, lack of unions, low taxes, and favorable climate. National migration patterns began to reverse. For decades many of the South’s brightest young people had deserted the region for the greater opportunities of the North. By the mid-1950s more whites were moving into Georgia each year than were departing, and by the mid-1970s the same was true for blacks. Moreover, those arriving tended to be better educated and skilled than those leaving, so that the net gain for Georgia was large. Some sluggish older industries became more dynamic as they moved to the South. For example, for more than 100 years, carpet manufacturers had made beautiful, high-quality woven rugs in Northern plants. The floor coverings were so expensive, however, that only the affluent could afford wall-to-wall carpeting. The typical prewar house had a hardwood floor because wood was cheaper than carpets. But in the Dalton area of north Georgia, local entrepreneurs in the 1940s built machines to produce carpeting by a new, cheaper technique called tufting. After they discovered in the 1950s that durable, inexpensive rugs could be made with nylon thread, the carpet industry experienced unparalleled growth. Within a generation of the war’s end, United States home builders had virtually stopped installing hardwood floors, and wall-to-wall carpeting was nearly universal. In the late 1990s north Georgia continues to be the center of the world carpet industry. The transformation of the South’s economy was coupled with an even more remarkable alteration of society in the area of race relations. Black soldiers returning home from World War II were often in the forefront in demanding change. In general, young people were no longer willing to tolerate the indignities their parents had suffered. Soon the white politicians found themselves confronted with a movement demanding an end to racial segregation and discrimination. In 1946 a federal court knocked down Georgia’s white primary law, a device to ensure white control of party machinery. That February the vote of Atlanta blacks made the difference in sending to Washington a white liberal, Helen Douglas Mankin, the first Georgia woman elected to Congress. Police departments began to hire black officers, first in Savannah in 1947, then in Atlanta the next year; at that time, however, black police were only allowed to arrest fellow blacks. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 decided, in Brown v. Board of Education, that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Soon Georgia blacks filed a number of cases in federal courts to force public schools and colleges to abide by the Brown decision. In January 1961 two students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, forced the University of Georgia to open its doors to black students. That fall, following a federal court order in the case of Calhoun v. Latimer, the Atlanta public schools began to desegregate. Over the next decade the tradition of segregated education was fundamentally altered. The civil rights movement in the United States was centered in Atlanta, which was the home of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In March 1960 black college students in Atlanta, and soon other Georgia cities, began holding sit-ins at segregated restaurants, lunch counters, parks, and churches. The nonviolent protests also included marching, picketing, and occasional boycotting of stores. While demonstrators were usually met with hostility, they sometimes got results. In Atlanta, for instance, business leaders feared the negative publicity the city received when it arrested or harmed peaceful demonstrators. Progressive mayors such as William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, Jr., had worked hard to build Atlanta into the commercial and transportation center of the South. They advertised Atlanta as “the city too busy to hate.” By 1961 they were willing to end segregation at lunch counters and negotiate with civil rights leaders on other reforms. At the same time, many Georgia politicians in the 1950s and 1960s engaged in massive resistance to integration of public facilities. Following Brown v. Board of Education the state threatened to cut off public funding to any school that integrated. In 1956 the state flag was changed to include the Confederate battle flag. For some this was merely a way to honor the memory of the brave soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, but for others it represented resistance to federal attempts to change the racist laws and customs of the past. In 1964 Congress passed a civil rights act that ended segregation in public places. Lester Maddox became a folk hero to some whites by closing his Atlanta restaurant rather than admit black customers. Two years later he was elected governor. While his record as governor was more progressive than his image, he nevertheless symbolized a defiant Georgia that stood outside the national mainstream. In 1971 Maddox was succeeded by a man who projected a much different image—Jimmy Carter. In his inaugural address Carter said something that Georgians had not heard a governor utter since Reconstruction. The achievement of the civil rights movement in transforming attitudes was apparent when Carter announced: “I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over. Our people have already made this major and difficult decision, but we cannot underestimate the challenge of hundreds of minor decisions yet to be made.” Carter went on to call for equal opportunity for all. Five years later, he was elected president of the United States. Carter himself has often credited the civil rights movement with making it possible for statesmen from the Deep South to ascend to the presidency. He represented a new generation of Southern leaders who no longer had to defend segregation and thus could appeal to the majority of Americans outside the region. Carter was perhaps correct that the majority of Georgians, sometime in the 1960s and 1970s, stopped trying to defend segregation and white supremacy. A change in practices, to some degree, led to a change in attitudes. Yet a backlash against the civil rights movement was also apparent. The integration of the Atlanta public schools, a high crime rate, high taxes, and the high cost of housing, were contributing factors to white flight, the movement of white residents from the city to the suburbs. Atlanta went quickly from being a majority-white to a majority-black city, encircled by a ring of white communities. In 1968 Georgians were so disenchanted with both the Democrats and the Republicans that they cast their presidential ballots for third-party candidate George Wallace of Alabama, the onetime symbol of Southern resistance to school integration.
Introduction to Georgia - Video
Capital & largest city: Atlanta
State Nickname: Peach State
State bird: Brown Thrasher
State flower: Cherokee Rose
State tree: Live oak
State Fish: Largemouth bass
Georgia population density
Georgia population by race
Georgia population by religion
Governor: Nathan Deal (R)