Georgia - History and Heritage

Georgia - History and Heritage

smithsonian.com

Georgia’s history spans the last three centuries, highlighting the determination of coastal colonists who created this beautiful state, the inspiration that sparked the Civil Rights Movement and the spirit that brought Georgia the 1996 Olympic Games.

Middle Georgia
The heart of Georgia has fed the dreams of the state since its early days as a farming community. Before the state capital moved to Atlanta, three cities in middle Georgia held the distinction. In 1786, Augusta was named the state’s permanent capital after several years of rotating the title with Savannah. The capital remained in Augusta for a decade, but was moved to Louisville, named for the French King, for another 10 years. In 1807, the capital was officially moved to Milledgeville where a new capital building was constructed. Milledgeville, which along with Washington D.C. are the only cities designed and built specifically to serve as a capital city, served as the state seat for 61 years before Atlanta was named in 1868. Be sure to visit the beautifully restored Old Governor’s Mansion and State Legislative Chambers.

Today, the region is still known for its rich farmlands. You can celebrate the Vidalia onion at the crop’s annual festival, visit one of the areas peach packing plants to see how the process has been modernized, or select your own bag of Georgia peanuts and pecans at a farmers market.

Atlanta
Since its earliest days as a railway center, Atlanta has undergone epic transformations to become one of the fastest-growing urban and cultural centers in the nation. Originally, the city’s northwest Georgia location made it an ideal military base for the Confederate Army in the Civil War. It also made it a target. In 1864, the Union Army led by Gen. William Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground. But within five years Atlanta’s spirit proved strong as the city was rebuilt, the population doubled and the city was named Georgia’s capital. Reminders of Atlanta’s earliest days are evident throughout the city including the now revitalized Underground Atlanta, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield and scores of beautiful antebellum homes.

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the streets in Atlanta were buzzing with the spirit and voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters. You can still visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached and stroll through the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which reflects the history, heritage and achievements of Atlanta's African Americans.

In 1996, Atlanta welcomed the world as host of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. That event put Atlanta, and the entire state, on the world’s stage and raised the profile of the city as a center for global commerce. The spirit of the Olympic Games is still alive in the city at Centennial Olympic Park and at a special exhibit at the Atlanta History Center.

Savannah
You can trace Georgia’s earliest colonial history to the shores of Savannah, where General James Edward Oglethorpe and more than 100 colonists landed in 1733 to claim the area for King George II. The streets of Savannah were laid out that same year, making it the first planned city in America. Thousands of historic building and markers remain throughout the coastal area today as a testament to the culture and society that has thrived on Georgia’s coast for hundreds of years.

Historic preservation has long been important in Savannah. In the 1950s, a group of concerned women began the city’s movement to preserve its historic structures that were being threatened by the wrecking ball of urban growth. That endeavor gave rise to the Historic Savannah Foundation that has saved multitudes of buildings whose beauty are the foundation of the city’s charm. You can visit Savannah’s Historic District, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966, to stroll the same cobblestone streets and historic squares that were established more than 250 years ago, explore one of the region’s many museums or enjoy the a day on the coast where Oglethorpe and his crew landed.

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