Georgia History

Historic Facts & Overview of Georgia History

Take a peek at Georgia history. Discover an overview of Georgia's rich history, heritage, historic events, and culture.

Known today as the "Peach State," Georgia, founded in 1733, is one of the original 13 states. It was named in honor of England's King George II. During the Civil War, the fall of Atlanta was a crucial turning point in the defeat of the South. Today, Atlanta, which became Georgia's capital in 1868, is a thriving city with major national corporations, and it is considered the economic and cultural center of the Southeast. The state flower is the Cherokee rose.

Overview of Georgia History and Heritage

In 1732, English King George II granted a charter for the last of the 13th colony in America. There were originally twenty one trustees named in the 1732 charter "The Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia". Over the period of the trusteeship (1732-1755), fifty more were added. For more detailed information on the institutional organization and development of the province, please see Georgia as a Proprietary Province: The Execution of a Trust by James Ross McCain (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1917).

After obtaining a royal charter, Gen. James Oglethorpe established the first permanent settlement in Georgia in 1733 as a refuge for English debtors. In 1732, English King George II granted Gen. James Oglethorpe a charter for the 13th colony in America. Colonists arrived in Georgia and founded Savannah on Feb. 12, 1733 as a refuge for English debtors. In 1742, Oglethorpe defeated Spanish invaders in the Battle of Bloody Marsh.

After the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Georgians joined in the fight for freedom. English troops captured Savannah and by the end of 1779 had control of almost all of Georgia, until 1782. Georgia ratified the US Constitution and became a state on Jan. 2, 1788.

Georgia's population grew steadily from 1733, reaching around 40,000 people in 1776. [Source: Coleman, Kenneth. A History of Georgia. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991, p. 54]

The last statement in the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, is "these United Colonies are...Free and Independent States." At that time, however, the word "state" was equivalent to the word "nation". Later, on January 2, 1788, Georgia ratified the Federal constitution, and thus became the fourth state in the new nation of the United States of America. Georgia was also the third state to ratify the Federal constitution unanimously. [Source: The Georgia Studies Book: Our State and Nation (Athens, Ga.: Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1998) and The Georgia Official and Statistical Register.]

Georgia didn't actually have counties until 1777. Georgia was originally divided into districts and towns from 1732 to 1758. From 1758 to 1777, Georgia was divided into twelve parishes. These twelve parishes became the original seven counties of Georgia, which include: Burke (St. George Parish), Camden (St. Thomas and St. Mary Parish), Chatham (St. Phillips and Christ Church Parish), Effingham (St. Matthew and St. Phillip Parish), Glynn (St. David and St. Patrick Parish), Liberty (St. John, St. Andrew, and St. James Parish), and Richmond (St. Paul Parish). Wilkes County was the eighth county created on February 5, 1777 in the Georgia Constitution; however, it was originally created on June 1, 1773 from the Treaty of Augusta, when Cherokee and Creek Indians ceded the land. [Source: Bryant, Pat. Georgia Counties: Their Changing Boundaries. Atlanta: State Printing Office, 1983.

Between 1790 and 1830 the population of Georgia increased six-fold. The western push of the settlers created a problem. Georgians continued to take Native American lands and force them into the frontier. By 1825 the Lower Creek had been completely removed from the state under provisions of the Treaty of Indian Springs. By 1827 the Creek were gone. By 1840, railroads expanded through the area and settlers quickly came to develop the land.

The invention of the cotton gin allowed cotton to became a major industry in Georgia. Slave labor was an important part of these huge cotton plantations. By 1860, many in the North wanted to abolish slavery. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, Georgia withdrew from the Union and joined the Confederacy in 1861.

A Confederate stronghold, Georgia was the scene of extensive military action during the Civil War. The Confederate Army won the first big battle in Georgia at Chickamauga Creek in 1863. However, union General William T. Sherman burned Atlanta and destroyed a 60-mile-wide path to the coast, where he captured Savannah in 1864.

The largest state east of the Mississippi with almost $100 million in damage, Georgia lay in ruins.

During Reconstruction, Georgia was under military rule. The state constitution was rewritten, allowing blacks the right to vote. Georgians had to rebuild their cities and farms. On July 15, 1870, Georgia was permanently readmitted to the Union with Atlanta as the state capital.

The early 1900s brought much industrial growth. Cotton continued to be grown, but production of corn, peaches, pecans, and tobacco increased. Boll weevils destroyed much of the cotton during the 1920s. The Great Depression (1929-1939) also caused many to lose their jobs and their land as factories closed and prices for crops fell. The federal government tried to help in 1933 constructing roads and housing. Other programs helped farmers to keep their land.

In the Georgia House of Representatives, Viola Ross Napier of Bibb County was the first woman to take the oath of office in 1923, and served until 1926. She ran in the first election in which women were allowed to vote. Before running for office, she also became the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the Georgia Court of Appeals and was the first to argue before the Georgia Supreme Court. Additionally, Bessie Kempton Crowell of Fulton County served from 1923-1931.

In the United States Senate, Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton (Bartow Co., Democrat), a prominent women's rights advocate, was appointed to the United States Senate and served in 1922. She was the first woman from any state in the Union to serve in the US Senate. However, she was not elected to succeed her husband. She was appointed by Governor Thomas W. Hardwick to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas E. Watson. Even though she only held office for a short time, she has earned the distinction of the first woman Senator. [Source: Coleman, Kenneth. A History of Georgia. 2nd ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991.] See: United States Congress: Georgia Women.

Manufacturing increased during World War II (1939-1945), helping the economy to recover. Many Georgians moved to the cities to work factories in the defense industry. After the war, industries continued to expand as several businesses moved into the state.

In the United States House of Representatives, Florence Reville Gibbs of Wayne County was appointed to fill the unexpired term of her husband in 1940. She did not seek reelection. The next woman Representative was Helen Douglas Mankin of Fulton County. She was elected to fill the unexpired term of Robert Ramspeck in 1946, and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection. Previously, she had served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1937-46. Iris Faircloth Blitch of Clinch County was a successful candidate, however, and served from 1955-63. She also had served in the Georgia General Assembly, both in the Senate (1947-48, 1953-54) and in the House (1949-50). The first African-American woman serving in the US House representing Georgia is Cynthia McKinney, who began her term in 1993. Please see: United States Congress: Georgia Women.

Georgia had serious racial issues during the 1950s. In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled segregation to be illegal in public schools. In 1961, integration began in some schools in Georgia. However in 1969, the US Department of Justice had to file a suit against the state requesting complete integration of public schools. Restaurants and other public places were required to change, but many chose to close rather than integrate.

In 1965, Grace Towns Hamilton of Fulton County became the first African-American woman to serve in the Georgia House. One of Atlanta's most prominent activists, she served until 1984. In the 1999-2000 term, there are 36 women members of the Georgia House. Please see: Georgia General Assembly: Women in the House of Representatives.

In January, 1977, Georgia sent its first President to the White House - Jimmy Carter of Plains, a former Georgia governor.

Cathy Cox was elected Secretary of State on November 3,1998, and became the first female to serve in any of these offices.

In the 1999-2000 term, there are 11 African-American members of the Georgia Senate, and 33 African-American members of the Georgia House of Representatives. Please also see:

  • African-Americans in the Georgia State Senate
  • African-Americans in the Georgia House of Representatives

Recently, new industries are continuing to expand in Georgia. State legislation is being passed to help education. The state is also trying to solve problems with overpopulation and pollution.

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