Overall History of Georgia

September 14th, 2011 7:43 am

Permanent English settlement dates from 1733, when James Edward Oglethorpe founded Savannah. By the time of the Revolutionary War, almost half the population were slaves. Though far removed from the Civil War’s early phases, Georgia held two crucial battlefronts in the latter part of the war: Chickamuga, where Union troops were defeated, and Atlanta, which they conquered and burned. Atlanta, the South’s major transportation hub, was rebuilt with startling speed.

In the 20th century the state vaulted to national prominence on the back of an eclectic group of events and images: the wildly popular novel and film Gone With the Wind; Reverend Martin Luther King Jr and civil rights protests; 39th US President Jimmy Carter; and Atlanta’s rise as a global media and business center, culminating in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Since then, Georgia’s capital has become known as the ‘Motown of the South’ thanks to its sizzling hip-hop and R&B scene.

The Struggle for Racial Equality

September 14th, 2011 7:42 am

In 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge caused nationwide commotion by discharging three educators in the state university system alleged to have advocated racial equality in the schools. The state university system lost its accreditation for a time as a result of Talmadge’s action. Talmadge was defeated in the 1942 Democratic primary by Ellis G. Arnall.

Under Arnall’s administration, Georgia became the first state to grant the vote to 18-year-olds, and in 1946 (on the strength of a U.S. Supreme Court decision) blacks voted for the first time in the Georgia Democratic primary. Among Arnall’s other administrative acts was the adoption of a new constitution in Aug., 1945. The 1945 constitution, which, in amended form, is still in effect in the state, contained a provision for Georgia’s notorious county-unit system. This system for nominating state officials in Democratic primaries led to the political control of urban areas by sparsely populated rural areas.

The integration of public schools, following the 1954 Supreme Court decision, was strenuously opposed by many Georgians. However, in 1961 the legislature abandoned a “massive resistance” policy, and Georgia became the first state in the deep South to proceed with integration without a major curtailment of its public school system. Racial tensions persisted, however, and in May, 1970, racial disorders broke out in Augusta.

Georgia’s county-unit system (held constitutional by the Supreme Court in Apr., 1950) was abolished by federal court order in 1962. In 1972, the Georgian Andrew Young became the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress; he later became mayor of Atlanta. Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and the 39th president of the United States (1977–81), had been governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975; his administration brought attention to the state, whose urban centers, especially Atlanta, were beginning to experience rapid growth. Today, roughly one half of the jobs in Georgia are in the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is sprawling into formerly rural districts, highlighting the cultural and economic gaps between Georgia’s rural and urban areas.