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History of Atlanta

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Title: History of Atlanta  
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Subject: Atlanta, African Americans in Atlanta, Timeline of Atlanta, 1996 Summer Olympics, P. James Bryant
Collection: Histories of Cities in Georgia (U.S. State), History of Atlanta, Georgia
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History of Atlanta

Atlanta timeline
See also: Timeline of Atlanta
Seal of the City of Atlanta
Seal of the City of Atlanta
Antebellum Atlanta: State Square and the first Union Station

The history of U.S. Midwest and a location was chosen to be the line's terminus. The stake marking the founding of "Terminus" was driven into the ground in 1837 (called the Zero Mile Post). In 1839 homes and a store were built there and the settlement grew. Between 1845 and 1854 rail lines arrived from four different directions, and the rapidly growing town quickly became the rail hub for the entire Southern United States. During the American Civil War, Atlanta, as a distribution hub, became the target of a major Union campaign, and in 1864 Union General Sherman's troops set on fire and destroyed the city's assets and buildings, save churches and hospitals. After the war the population grew rapidly, as did manufacturing, while the city retained its role as a rail hub. Coca-Cola was launched here in 1886 and grew into an Atlanta-based world empire. Electric streetcars arrived in 1889,[1] and the city added new "streetcar suburbs".

The city's elite black colleges were founded between 1865 and 1885, and despite disenfranchisement and the later imposition of Jim Crow laws in the 1910s, a prosperous black middle class and upper class emerged. By the early 20th century, "Sweet" Auburn Avenue was called "the most prosperous Negro street in the nation". In the 1950s blacks started moving into city neighborhoods that had previously kept them out, while Atlanta's first freeways enabled large numbers of whites to move to, and commute from, new suburbs. Atlanta was home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a major center for the Civil Rights Movement. Resulting desegregation occurred in stages over the 1960s. Slums were razed and the new Atlanta Housing Authority built public housing projects.

From the mid-60s to mid-70s, nine suburban malls opened, and the downtown shopping district declined. But just north of it, gleaming office towers and hotels rose, and in 1976 the new Maynard Jackson, and in ensuing decades, black political leaders worked successfully with the white business community to promote business growth, while still empowering black businesses. From the mid-70s to mid-80s most of the MARTA rapid transit system was built. While the suburbs grew rapidly, much of the city itself deteriorated and the city lost 21% of its population between 1970 and 1990.

In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, for which new facilities and infrastructure were built. Hometown airline Delta continued to grow, and by 1998-9, Atlanta's airport was the busiest in the world. Since the mid-90s, gentrification has given new life to many of the city's intown neighborhoods. The 2010 census showed blacks leaving the city, whites moving to the city, and a much more diverse metro area with heaviest growth in the exurbs at its outer edges.


  • Native American civilization: before 1836 1
  • From railroad terminus to Atlanta: 1836-1860 2
    • Growth and development into a regional rail hub 2.1
    • Manufacturing and commerce 2.2
    • Slavery in antebellum Atlanta 2.3
  • Civil War and Reconstruction: 1861-1871 3
    • Civil War: 1861-1865 3.1
    • Reconstruction: 1865-1871 3.2
    • Center of black education 3.3
  • Gate City of the New South: 1872-1905 4
    • The New South 4.1
    • Expansion and the first planned suburbs 4.2
    • Disenfranchisement of blacks 4.3
    • Coca-Cola 4.4
    • Cotton States Expo and Booker T. Washington Speech 4.5
  • Streetcar suburbs and World War II: 1906-1945 5
    • 1906 Race Riot and results 5.1
      • Rise of Sweet Auburn 5.1.1
    • Jim Crow laws 5.2
    • Country music scene 5.3
    • Growth 5.4
    • Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 5.5
    • Gone with the Wind premiere 5.6
      • Absence of film's black stars at event 5.6.1
      • Controversial participation of Martin Luther King 5.6.2
    • Transportation Hub 5.7
    • World War II 5.8
  • Suburbanization and Civil Rights: 1946-1989 6
    • Blockbusting and racial transition in neighborhoods 6.1
    • Civil Rights Movement 6.2
    • Desegregation 6.3
    • 1962 air crash and influence on art scene 6.4
    • Freeway construction and revolts 6.5
    • Urban renewal 6.6
    • Shoppers move to new malls as Downtown gains new roles 6.7
    • Black political power and Mayor Jackson 6.8
    • Construction of MARTA rail system 6.9
    • Child murders 6.10
    • Mayor Andrew Young 6.11
    • Campbell mayorship and failure of Atlanta Empowerment Zone 6.12
  • Olympic and World City: 1990-present 7
    • 1996 Summer Olympics 7.1
    • Shirley Franklin mayorship 7.2
    • 2008 tornado 7.3
    • BeltLine 7.4
    • Gentrification 7.5
    • Racial transition 7.6
    • Recent events 7.7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Native American civilization: before 1836

The region where Atlanta and its suburbs were built was originally Decatur was founded the following year.[5]

In 1830 an inn was established which would be known as Whitehall due to the then-unusual fact that it had a coat of white paint when most other buildings were of washed or natural wood. Later, Whitehall Street would be built as the road from Atlanta to Whitehall. The Whitehall area would be renamed West End in 1867 and is the oldest intact Victorian neighborhood of Atlanta.

In 1835, some leaders of the Cherokee Nation ceded their territory to the United States without the consent of the majority of the Cherokee people in exchange for land out west under the Treaty of New Echota, an act that led to the Trail of Tears.

From railroad terminus to Atlanta: 1836-1860

Western & Atlantic Railroad's Zero Mile Post

In 1836, the Macon and Savannah. A U.S. Army engineer, Colonel Stephen Harriman Long, was asked to recommend the location where the Western and Atlantic line would terminate. He surveyed various possible routes, then in the autumn of 1837 drove a stake into the ground near what is now the intersection of Forsyth and Magnolia Streets, about 3-4 blocks southeast of today's Five Points.[7][8] The zero milepost was later placed to mark that spot.[9][10]

In 1839,

  • Changing Atlanta

External links

  • Walter G. Cooper (1978). Official History of Futon County. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Company. 
  • Atlanta City Directory. 1922. 
  • Atlanta City Directory: 1919. Atlanta City Directory Co. 1919. 
  • Atlanta City Directory. Foote & Davies Co.  1904, 1908
Published in the 20th century
  • Atlanta City Directory for 1898. Bullock and Saunders. 1898. 
  • Atlanta City Directory for 1896. Franklin Printing and Publishing Co. 1896. 
  • Atlanta City Directory. Atlanta, Ga.:  
  • Atlanta City Directory: 1882. Sholes & Co. 1882. 
  • Directory of the City of Atlanta for 1877. A.E. Sholes. 1877. 
  • Atlanta City Directory for 1872. Atlanta, Georgia: Plantation Publishing Co. 1872. 
  • Atlanta City Directory for 1870. Atlanta, Georgia: William R. Hanleiter. 1870. 
  • V. T. Barnwell (1867), Barnwell's Atlanta city directory, and strangers' guide, Atlanta: Intelligencer Book and Job Office 
Published in the 19th century

Further reading

  1. ^ Carson, O.E., The Trolley Titans, Interurban Press, Glendale, CA, 1981, p.xi
  2. ^ "Georgia's Forts". Our Georgia History. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  3. ^ "Land Cessions of American Indians in Georgia". June 5, 2007. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ """New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Fulton County. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  5. ^ """New Georgia Encyclopedia, "DeKalb County. June 19, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Creation of the Western and Atlantic Railroad". About North Georgia. Golden Ink. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  7. ^ a b c d Garrett, Franklin M. (March 1, 2011) [First published 1969]. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1820s-1870s 1. University of Georgia Press.  
  8. ^ Cooper, Walter G. (1978) [1934]. Official History of Fulton County. The Reprint Press. 
  9. ^ "Zero Mile Post Historical Marker". GeorgiaInfo, Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  10. ^ a b "Zero Mile Post". Latitude 34 North. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  11. ^ "New Georgia Encyclopedia: Atlanta". 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  12. ^ "Thasherville Marker". GeorgiaInfo, Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  13. ^ Martin, Thomas H. (1902). Atlanta and its builders: a comprehensive history of the Gate city of the South. Century Memorial Publishing Company.  
  14. ^ a b Reed, Wallace Putnam (1889). History of Atlanta, Georgia. D. Mason & Company.  
  15. ^ Davis, Robert Scott (February 25, 2011). Civil War Atlanta. The History Press.  
  16. ^ "African American Experience", (National Park Service), retrieved 2014-03-19 
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ a b c , p. 34ff.To Build Our Lives TogetherAllison Dorsey,
  20. ^ , p.746, Franklin M. GarrettAtlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1820s-1870s
  21. ^ , p.19, Laurel-Ann DooleyWicked Atlanta: The Sordid Side of Peach City History
  22. ^  
  23. ^ "Atlanta Race Riot". The Coalition to Remember the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. Retrieved September 6, 2006. 
  24. ^ "Atlanta Race Riot". Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  25. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia"Auburn Avenue (Sweet Auburn)",
  26. ^ , p. 335Our Kind of People: inside America's Black upper classLawrence Otis Graham,
  27. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia"Segregation",
  28. ^ Harris, Warren G. Clark Gable: A Biography, Harmony, (2002), p. 203; ISBN 0-307-23714-1
  29. ^ Watts, Jill. Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood, 2005, page 172 - ISBN 0-06-051490-6
  30. ^ Atlanta Premiere of Gone With The Wind
  31. ^ , p.240Speak now against the dayJohn Egerton,
  32. ^ , October 16, 2011Atlanta Journal-Constitution"The little known story of MLK's 'drum major for justice'",
  33. ^ a b White flight: Atlanta and the making of modern conservatism By Kevin Michael Kruse. Google Books. February 1, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  34. ^ Friday, Jan. 18, 1963 (January 18, 1963). The South: Divided City", Time magazine, January 18, 1961""". TIME. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  35. ^ , p. 177ff.Beneath the image of the Civil Rights Movement and race relationsDavid Andrew Harmon,
  36. ^ Digital Library of Georgia"Bus desegregation in Atlanta",
  37. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia"Rich's Department Store"
  38. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia"Lester Maddox",
  39. ^ , 15 May 1962Atlanta Journal“Negroes Attend Atlanta Theaters,”
  40. ^ Daily Report
  41. ^ Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education"APS Timeline",
  42. ^ Morris, Mike. "Air France crash recalls ‘62 Orly tragedy." Atlanta Journal Constitution. Tuesday 2 June 2009. Retrieved on 2 June 2009.
  43. ^ Photo of Mayor Allen inspecting the crash site at Orly
  44. ^ Gupton Jr., Guy W. "Pat" (Spring 2000). "First Person". Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Retrieved 2006-11-07. 
  45. ^  
  46. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia"Atlanta",
  47. ^ "Race and Hispanic Origin for Selected Cities and Other Places: Earliest Census to 1990". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  48. ^ Bullard, R. D.; et al. (2000). Sprawl City: Race, Politics, and Planning in Atlanta. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. pp. 52–59.  
  49. ^ a b "History of MARTA - 1970-1979". Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Archived from the original on February 4, 2005. Retrieved March 2, 2008. 
  50. ^ Ferreira, Robert. "MARTA Provisions for Future Extensions". Retrieved February 24, 2008. 
  51. ^ , November 6, 2000Atlanta Business Chronicle"Empowerment zones: Boondoggle or aid to poor?",
  52. ^ , September 26, 2007Creative LoafingScott Henry, "Federal grants go to groups with shaky past",
  53. ^ a b Press Release
  54. ^ Clean Water Atlanta Overview
  55. ^ Shirley Franklin: The Pipe Dreamer
  56. ^ City Mayors: US elections 2005
  57. ^ Atlanta BeltLine
  58. ^ "Urban centers draw more young, educated adults". USA Today. April 1, 2011. 
  59. ^ Schneider, Craig (April 13, 2011). "Young professionals lead surge of intown living". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  60. ^ Martin, Timothy W. (April 16, 2011). "The New New South". The Wall Street Journal. 
  61. ^ Wheatley, Thomas (March 21, 2011). "Thomas Wheatley, "Atlanta's census numbers reveal dip in black population – and lots of people who mysteriously vanished", Creative Loafing, March 21, 2011". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  62. ^ US Census figures for black population in Metro Atlanta outside City of Atlanta and DeKalb County - 2000: 572,379. 2010: 1,105,322
  63. ^ Brown, Robbie (December 10, 2009). "Atlanta Mayor Recount Goes to Reed". The New York Times. 
  64. ^ ABC News, "Atlanta School System Caught in Epic Cheating Scandal", MArch 30, 2013


See also

Starting in October 2011, Occupy Atlanta staged demonstrations against banks and AT&T to protest alleged greed by those companies.

In 2009 the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal began, which ABC News called the "worst in the country",[64] resulting in the 2013 indictment of superintendent Beverly Hall.

Recent events

The black population in the Atlanta area rapidly suburbanized in the 1990s and 2000s. From 2000 to 2010, the city of Atlanta's black population shrunk by 31,678 people, dropping from 61.4% to 54.0% of the population.[61] While blacks exited the city and DeKalb County, the black population increased sharply in other areas of Metro Atlanta by 93.1%.[62] During the same period, the proportion of whites in the city's population grew dramatically - faster than that of any other major U.S. city between 2000-2006. Between 2000 and 2010, Atlanta added 22,763 whites, and the white proportion of the population increased from 31% to 38%. By 2009, a white mayoral candidate, Mary Norwood, lost by just 714 votes (out of over 84,000 cast) to Kasim Reed. This represented a historic change from the perception until that time that Atlanta was "guaranteed" to elect a black mayor.[63]

Racial transition

Since 2000, Atlanta has undergone a profound transformation culturally, demographically, and physically. Much of the city's change during the decade was driven by young, college-educated professionals: from 2000 to 2009, the three-mile radius surrounding Downtown Atlanta gained 9,722 residents aged 25 to 34 holding at least a four-year degree, an increase of 61%.[58][59] Meanwhile, as gentrification spread throughout the city, Atlanta's cultural offerings expanded: the High Museum of Art doubled in size; the Alliance Theatre won a Tony Award; and numerous art galleries were established on the once-industrial Westside.[60]


In 2005, the $2.8 billion BeltLine project was adopted, with the stated goals of converting a disused 22-mile freight railroad loop that surrounds the central city into an art-filled multi-use trail and increasing the city's park space by 40%.[57]


Historic Fourth Ward Park, a new park created as part of the BeltLine project

On March 14, 2008, a Oakland Cemetery were also damaged.

2008 tornado

2008 tornado in Downtown Atlanta. Tornado is dark shadow at left.

In 2005, TIME Magazine named Franklin of the five best big-city American mayors.[53] In October of that same year, she was included in the U.S. News & World Report "Best Leaders of 2005" issue.[55] With solid popular support and strong backing from the business sector, Franklin was reelected Atlanta Mayor in 2005, garnering more than 90 percent of the vote.[56]

She has been lauded for efforts to make the City of Atlanta "green." Under Franklin's leadership Atlanta has gone from having one of the lowest percentages of LEED certified buildings to one of the highest.

Franklin made repairing the Atlanta sewer system a main focus of her office. Prior to Franklin's term, Atlanta's combined sewer system violated the federal Clean Water Act and burdened the city government with fines from the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2002, Franklin announced an initiative called "Clean Water Atlanta" to address the problem and begin improving the city's sewer system.[54]

Shirley Franklin's 2001 run for mayor was her first run for public office. She won, succeeding Mayor Bill Campbell after winning 50 percent of the vote. Facing a massive and unexpected budget deficit, Franklin slashed the number of government employees and increased taxes to balance the budget as quickly as possible.[53]

Shirley Franklin mayorship

In 1990, the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, in which two people died, one from a heart attack, and several others were injured. Eric Robert Rudolph was later convicted of the bombing as an anti-government and pro-life protest.

Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park. The park commemorates the 1996 Summer Olympics

1996 Summer Olympics

Olympic and World City: 1990-present

In 1993-1996 about 250,000 people attended Freaknik, an annual Spring Break gathering for African Americans which was not centrally organized and which resulted in much traffic gridlock and increased crime. After a 1996 crackdown annual attendance dissipated and the event moved to other cities.

In November 1994, the Atlanta Empowerment Zone was established, a 10-year, $250 million federal program to revitalize Atlanta's 34 poorest neighborhoods including Bill Campbell.[51][52]

Campbell mayorship and failure of Atlanta Empowerment Zone

Young was re-elected as Mayor in 1985 with more than 80% of the vote. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention during Young's tenure. He was prohibited by term limits from running for a third term. He was succeeded by Maynard Jackson who returned as mayor from 1990 to 1994. Bill Campbell succeeded Jackson as mayor in 1994 and served through 2002.

In 1981, after being urged by a number of people, including Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Young ran for mayor of Atlanta. He was elected later that year with 55% of the vote, succeeding Maynard Jackson. As mayor of Atlanta, he brought in $70 billion of new private investment. He continued and expanded Maynard Jackson's programs for including minority and female-owned businesses in all city contracts. The Mayor's Task Force on Education established the Dream Jamboree College Fair that tripled the college scholarships given to Atlanta public school graduates. In 1985, he was involved in privatizing the Atlanta Zoo, which was renamed Zoo Atlanta. The then-moribund zoo was overhauled, making ecological habitats specific to different animals.

Mayor Andrew Young

Andrew Young

Atlanta was rocked by a series of murders of children from the summer of 1979 until the spring of 1981. Over the two-year period, at least 18 children, adolescents and adults were killed, all of them black. Atlanta native Wayne Williams, also black and 23 years old at the time of the last murder, was convicted of two of the murders and sent to prison for life.

Child murders

In 1965, an act of the Avondale. The Five Points downtown hub opened later that year. A short north-south line opened in 1981, which by 1984 had been extended to reach from Brookhaven to Lakewood/Fort McPherson. In 1988 the line was extended to a station inside the airport terminal.[49] A line originally envisioned to run to Emory University is still under consideration.[50]

MARTA train with Downtown Atlanta in background

Construction of MARTA rail system

During Jackson's first term as the Mayor, much progress was made in improving race relations in and around Atlanta, and Atlanta acquired the motto "A City Too Busy to Hate." As mayor, he led the beginnings and much of the progress on several huge public-works projects in Atlanta and its region. He helped arrange for the rebuilding of the airport's huge terminal to modern standards, and this airport was renamed the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in his honor shortly after his death, also named after him is the new Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. International Terminal which opened in May of 2012. He also fought against the construction of freeways through intown neighborhoods.

Maynard Jackson

In 1960, whites comprised 61.7% of the city's population.[47] African Americans became a majority in the city by 1970, and exercised new-found political influence by electing Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, in 1973.

Black political power and Mayor Jackson Atlanta's convention and hotel facilities would also grow immensely.

On the north side of Five Points, Downtown continued as the largest concentration of office space in Metro Atlanta, though it began to compete with Midtown, Buckhead, and the suburbs. The first 4 towers of Peachtree Center were built in 1965-1967, including the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, designed by John Portman, with its 22-story atrium. In total, seventeen buildings of more than fifteen floors were built in the 1960s.[46] The center of gravity of Downtown Atlanta correspondingly moved north from the Five Points area towards Peachtree Center.

The first major mall built in Atlanta was Lenox Square in Buckhead, opening in August 1959. From 1964 until 1973, nine major malls opened, most at the Perimeter freeway: Cobb Center in 1963, Columbia Mall in 1964, North DeKalb and Greenbriar malls in 1965, South DeKalb Mall in 1968, Phipps Plaza (near Lenox Square) in 1969, Perimeter and Northlake malls in 1971, and Cumberland Mall in 1973. Downtown Atlanta became less and less a shopping destination for the area's shoppers. Rich's closed its flagship store downtown in 1991, leaving government offices the major presence in the South Downtown area around it.

Shoppers move to new malls as Downtown gains new roles

In the 1960s slums such as Buttermilk Bottom near today's Civic Center were razed, in principle to build better housing, but much of the land would remain empty until the 1980s when mixed-income communities were built in what was renamed Bedford Pine. The African-American community east of downtown suffered as the center of the black economy moved squarely to southwestern Atlanta. During the 1960s African-American citizens rights groups such as U-Rescue emerged to address the lack of housing for poor blacks.

Urban renewal

Atlanta's freeway system was completed in the 1950s and 1960s, with the Druid Hills/Emory.

Freeway construction and revolts

The crash occurred during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and affected it as well. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harry Belafonte announced cancellation of a sit-in in downtown Atlanta as a conciliatory gesture to the grieving city, while Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X gained widespread national attention for the first time by expressing joy over the deaths of the all-white group.[45]

In 1962, Atlanta in general and its arts community in particular were shaken by the deaths of 106 people on Air France charter flight 007, which crashed. The Atlanta Art Association had sponsored a month-long tour of the art treasures of Europe. 106[42] of the tour members were heading home to Atlanta on the flight. The group included many of Atlanta's cultural and civic leaders. Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr. went to Orly, France to inspect the crash site where so many important Atlantans perished.[43] The loss was a catalyst for the arts in Atlanta, helped create the Woodruff Arts Center, originally called the Memorial Arts Center, as a tribute to the victims, and led to the creation of the Atlanta Arts Alliance. The French government donated a Rodin sculpture, The Shade, to the High in memory of the victims of the crash.[44]

1962 air crash and influence on art scene

Desegregation of the public sphere came in stages, with buses and trolleybuses desegregated in 1959,[36] restaurants at Rich's department store in 1961,[37] (though Lester Maddox's Pickrick restaurant famously remained segregated through 1964),[38] and movie theaters in 1962-3.[39][40] While in 1961, Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. became one of the few Southern white mayors to support desegregation of his city's public schools, initial compliance was token, and in reality desegregation occurred in stages from 1961 to 1973.[41]


Despite this incident, Atlanta's political and business leaders fostered Atlanta's image as "the city too busy to hate." While the city mostly avoided confrontation, minor race riots did occur in 1965 and in 1968.

In the 1960s, Atlanta was a major organizing center of the US Civil Rights Movement, with Dr. Martin Luther King and students from Atlanta's historically black colleges and universities playing major roles in the movement's leadership. On October 19, 1960, a sit-in at the lunch counters of several Atlanta department stores led to the arrest of Dr. King and several students. This drew attention from the national media and from presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

In the wake of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement, racial tensions in Atlanta erupted in acts of violence. For example, on October 12, 1958, a Reform Jewish temple on Peachtree Street was bombed. The "Confederate Underground" claimed responsibility. Many believed that Jews, especially those from the northeast, were advocates of the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Movement

White flight and the building of malls in the suburbs triggered a slow decline of the central business district.[33]

But efforts to stop transition in Cascade failed too. Neighborhoods of new black homeowners took root, helping alleviate the enormous strain of the lack of housing available to African Americans. Atlanta's western and southern neighborhoods transitioned to majority black — between 1960 and 1970 the number of census tracts that were at least 90% black, tripled. East Lake, Kirkwood, Watts Road, Reynoldstown, Almond Park, Mozley Park, Center Hill and Cascade Heights underwent an almost total transition from white to black. The black proportion of the city's population rose from 38 to 51%. Meanwhile, during the same decade, the city lost 60,000 white residents, a 20% decline.[35]

In the late 1950s, after forced-housing patterns were outlawed, violence, intimidation and organized political pressure was used in some white neighborhoods to discourage blacks from buying homes there. However, by the late 1950s, such efforts proved futile as blockbusting drove whites to sell their homes in neighborhoods such as Adamsville, Center Hill, Grove Park in northwest Atlanta, and white sections of Edgewood and Kirkwood on the east side. In 1961, the city attempted to thwart blockbusting by erecting road barriers in Cascade Heights, countering the efforts of civic and business leaders to foster Atlanta as the "city too busy to hate."[33][34]

Blockbusting and racial transition in neighborhoods

In 1952, Atlanta annexed Buckhead, as well as vast areas of what are now northwest, southwest and south Atlanta, adding 82 square miles (210 km2). By doing so, 100,000 new residents were added, mostly white and relatively affluent, preserving white political power as well as expanding the city's property tax base.

In 1951, the city received the All-America City Award, due to its rapid growth and high standard of living in the southern U.S.

1952 annexation

Suburbanization and Civil Rights: 1946-1989

With the entry of the United States into Marietta helped boost the city's population and economy. Shortly after the war 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.

World War II

In 1941, Delta Air Lines moved its headquarters to Atlanta. Delta would become the world's largest airline in 2008 after acquiring Northwest Airlines.

Transportation Hub

Martin Luther King, Jr. sang at the gala as part of a children's choir of his father's church, Ebenezer Baptist.[30] The boys dressed as pickaninnies and the girls wore "Aunt Jemima"-style bandanas, dress seen by many blacks as humiliating.[31][32] John Wesley Dobbs tried to dissuade Rev. King, Sr. from participating at the whites-only event, and Rev. King, Sr. was harshly criticized in the black community.

Controversial participation of Martin Luther King

Noticeably absent was Hattie McDaniel, who would win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy, as well as Butterfly McQueen (Prissy). The black actors were barred from attending the premiere, from appearing in the souvenir program, and from all the film's advertising in the South. Director David Selznick had attempted to bring McDaniel to the premiere, but MGM advised him not to. Clark Gable angrily threatened to boycott the premiere, but McDaniel convinced him to attend anyway.[28] McDaniel did attend the Hollywood debut thirteen days later, and was featured prominently in the program.[29]

Absence of film's black stars at event

On December 15, 1939 Atlanta hosted the premiere of Atlanta Constitution, filled the streets on this ice-cold night in Atlanta. A rousing ovation greeted a group of Confederate veterans who were guests of honor.

Gone with the Wind premiere

In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit Atlanta. With the city government nearing bankruptcy, the Coca-Cola Company had to help bail out the city's deficit. The federal government stepped in to help Atlantans by establishing Techwood Homes, the nation's first federal housing project in 1935.

On May 21, 1917, the Great Atlanta Fire destroyed 1,938 buildings, mostly wooden, in what is now the Old Fourth Ward. The fire resulted in 10,000 people becoming homeless. Only one person died, a woman who died of a heart attack at seeing her home in ashes.

The Great Atlanta Fire in the Fourth Ward

Great Atlanta Fire of 1917

In 1914, Druid Hills, which borders northeastern Atlanta.

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


Many Appalachian people came to Atlanta to work in the cotton mills and brought their music with them. Starting with a 1913 fiddler's convention, Atlanta was to become the center of a thriving country music scene. Atlanta would become an important center for country music recording and talent recruiting in the 1920s and 1930s, and live music center for an additional two decades after that.

Country music scene

In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish supervisor at a factory in Atlanta, was put on trial for raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old white employee from Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta. After doubts about Frank's guilt led his death sentence to be commuted in 1915, riots broke out in Atlanta among whites. They kidnapped Frank from the State Prison Farm in the city of Milledgeville, with the collusion of prison guards, and took him to Marietta, where he was lynched. Later that year the Klan was reborn in Atlanta.

"all blacks were required to pay obeisance to all whites, even those whites of low social standing. And although they were required to address whites by the title "sir," blacks rarely received the same courtesy themselves. Because even minor breaches of racial etiquette often resulted in violent reprisals, the region's codes of deference transformed daily life into a theater of ritual, where every encounter, exchange, and gesture reinforced black inferiority."

Beyond this, blacks were subject to the South's racial protocol, whereby, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:[27]

Jim Crow laws were passed in swift succession in the years after the riot. The result was in some cases segregated facilities, with nearly always inferior conditions for black customers, but in many cases it resulted in no facilities at all available to blacks, e.g. all parks were designated whites-only (although a private park, Joyland, did open in 1921). In 1910, the city council passed an ordinance requiring that restaurants be designated for one race only, hobbling black restaurant owners who had been attracting both black and white customers. In the same year, Atlanta's streetcars were segregated, with black patrons required to sit in the rear. If not enough seats were available for all white riders, the blacks sitting furthest forward in the trolley were required to stand and give their seats to whites. In 1913, the city created official boundaries for white and black residential areas. And in 1920, the city prohibited black-owned salons from serving white women and children.[26]

Sign at entrance to Ponce de Leon amusement park in 1908 indicating "colored persons admitted as servants only"

Jim Crow laws

Black businesses started to move from previously integrated business district downtown to the relative safety of the area around the Atlanta University Center west of downtown, and to Auburn Avenue in the Fourth Ward east of downtown. "Sweet" Auburn Avenue became home to Alonzo Herndon's Atlanta Mutual, the city's first black-owned life insurance company, and to a celebrated concentration of black businesses, newspapers, churches, and nightclubs. In 1956, Fortune magazine called Sweet Auburn "the richest Negro street in the world", a phrase originally coined by civil rights leader John Wesley Dobbs.[25] Sweet Auburn and Atlanta's elite black colleges formed the nexus of a prosperous black middle class and upper class which arose despite enormous social and legal obstacles.

Rise of Sweet Auburn

Competition between working-class whites and black for jobs and housing gave rise to fears and tensions. In 1906, print media fueled these tensions with hearsay about alleged sexual assaults on white women by black men, triggering the Atlanta Race Riot, which left at least 27 people dead[23] (25 of them black) and over 70 injured.[24]

The cover of French magazine "Le Petit Journal" in October 1906 depicting the Atlanta Race Riot

1906 Race Riot and results

Streetcar suburbs and World War II: 1906-1945

In 1895 the Cotton States and International Exposition was held at what is now Piedmont Park. Nearly 800,000 visitors attended the event. The exposition was designed to promote the region to the world and showcase products and new technologies as well as to encourage trade with Latin America. The exposition featured exhibits from several states including various innovations in agriculture and technology. President Grover Cleveland presided over the opening of the exposition. But the event is best remembered for the both hailed and criticized "Atlanta Compromise" speech given by Booker T. Washington in which Southern blacks would work meekly and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process in law.

Cotton States Expo and Booker T. Washington Speech

The identities of Atlanta and Fulton County going "dry". The first sales were at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta. Asa Griggs Candler acquired a stake in Pemberton's company in 1887 and incorporated it as the Coca Cola Company in 1888.[22] In 1892 Candler incorporated a second company, The Coca-Cola Company, the current corporation. By the time of its 50th anniversary, the drink had reached the status of a national icon in the USA. Coca-Cola's world headquarters have remained in Atlanta ever since. In 1991 the company opened the World of Coca-Cola, which has remained one of the city's top visitor attractions.


As Atlanta grew, ethnic and racial tensions mounted. Late 19th and early 20th-century immigration added a very small number of new Europeans to the mix. After Reconstruction, whites had used a variety of tactics, including militias and legislation, to re-establish political and social supremacy throughout the South. Starting with a poll tax in 1877, by the turn of the century, Georgia passed a variety of legislation that completed the disfranchisement of blacks. Not even college-educated men could vote. Nonetheless, African Americans in Atlanta had been developing their own businesses, institutions, churches, and a strong, educated middle class.

Disenfranchisement of blacks

Atlanta surpassed Savannah as Georgia's largest city by 1880.

In the 1890s, West End became the suburb of choice for the city's elite, but Inman Park, planned as a harmonious whole, soon overtook it in prestige. Peachtree Street's mansions reached ever further north into what is now Midtown Atlanta, including Amos G. Rhodes' (founder of the Rhodes Furniture Company in 1875) mansion, Rhodes Hall, which can still be visited.

Starting in 1871 horse-drawn, and later, starting in 1888, electric streetcars fueled real estate development and the city's expansion. Washington Street south of downtown, and Peachtree Street north of the central business district, became wealthy residential areas.

Inman Park, one of Atlanta's first planned garden suburbs

Expansion and the first planned suburbs

In 1880, Sister Cecilia Carroll, RSM, and three companions traveled from Savannah, Georgia to Atlanta to minister to the sick. With just 50 cents in their collective purse, the sisters opened the Atlanta Hospital, the first medical facility in the city after the Civil War. This later became known as Saint Joseph's Hospital.

Confederate Soldiers' Home was built in 1889.

The New South

Gate City of the New South: 1872-1905

Atlanta quickly became a center of black education. Atlanta University was established in 1865, the forerunner of Morehouse College in 1867, Clark University in 1869, what is now Spelman College in 1881, and Morris Brown College in 1885. This would be one of several factors aiding the establishment of one of the nation's oldest and best-established African American elite in Atlanta.

Center of black education

Construction created many new jobs, employment boomed. Atlanta soon became the industrial and commercial center of the South. From 1867 until 1888, U.S. Army soldiers occupied McPherson Barracks (later renamed Milledgeville.

A smallpox epidemic hit Atlanta in December 1865 and there were not enough doctors or hospital facilities. Another epidemic hit in Fall, 1866; hundreds died.[19]

The destruction of the housing stock by the Union army, together with the massive influx of refugees, resulted in a severe housing shortage. 18-acre (510 m2) to 14-acre (1,000 m2) lots with a small house rented for $5 per month, while those with a glass pane rented for $20. High rents rather than laws led to de facto segregation, with most blacks settling in three shantytown areas at the city's edge. There, housing was substandard; an AMA missionary remarked that many houses were "rickety shacks" rented at inflated rates. Two of the three shantytowns sat in low-lying areas, prone to flooding and sewage overflows, which resulted in outbreaks of disease in the late 19th century.[19] A shantytown named Tight Squeeze developed at Peachtree at what is now 10th Street in Midtown Atlanta. It was infamous for vagrancy, desperation, robberies of merchants transiting the settlement.[20][21]

Food supplies were erratic due to poor harvests, which were a result of the turmoil in the agricultural labor supply after emancipation of the slaves. Many refugees were destitute without even proper clothing or shoes; the AMA helped fill the gap with food, shelter, and clothing, and the federally-sponsored Freedmen's Bureau also offered much help, though erratically.[19]

Atlanta, Georgia -- the Commercial Centre, 1887

The city emerged from the ashes – hence the city's symbol, the phoenix – and was gradually rebuilt, as its population increased rapidly after the war. Atlanta received migrants from surrounding counties and states: from 1860 to 1870 Fulton County more than doubled in population, from 14,427 to 33,336. In a pattern seen across the South after the Civil War, many freedmen moved from plantations to towns or cities for work, including Atlanta; Fulton County went from 20.5% black in 1860 to 45.7% black in 1870.[17][18]

Roundhouse following its destruction during the Atlanta Campaign, 1866.

Reconstruction: 1865-1871

After a plea by Father Thomas O'Reilly of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Sherman did not burn the city's churches or hospitals. The remaining war resources were then destroyed in the aftermath, and in Sherman's March to the Sea. The fall of Atlanta was a critical point in the Civil War. Its much publicized fall gave confidence to the Northerners. Together with the Battle of Mobile Bay, the fall of Atlanta led to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and the eventual surrender of the Confederacy.

During the American Civil War, Atlanta served as an important railroad and military supply hub. (See also: Atlanta in the Civil War.) In 1864, the city became the target of a major Union invasion (the setting for the 1939 film Gone with the Wind). The area now covered by Atlanta was the scene of several battles, including the Battle of Peachtree Creek, the Battle of Atlanta, and the Battle of Ezra Church. On September 1, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta after a four-month siege mounted by Union General William T. Sherman and ordered all public buildings and possible Confederate assets destroyed. The next day, Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city, and on September 7 Sherman ordered the civilian population to evacuate. He then ordered Atlanta burned to the ground on November 11 in preparation for his punitive march south.

Civil War: 1861-1865

Sherman's army destroying rail infrastructure in Atlanta, 1864

Civil War and Reconstruction: 1861-1871

There were several slave auction houses in the town, which advertised in the newspapers and many of which also traded in manufactured goods.

In 1850, out of 2,572 people, 493 were enslaved African Americans, and 18 were free blacks, for a total black population of 20%.[16] The black proportion of Atlanta's population would become much higher after the Civil War, when freed slaves would come to Atlanta in search of opportunity.

Slavery in antebellum Atlanta

By 1860 the city had four large machine shops, two planing mills, three tanneries, two shoe factories, a soap factory, and clothing factories employing 75 people.[14]

:18[15] The city became a busy center for

The Atlanta Rolling Mill (later the "Confederate" Rolling Mill) was built in 1858 near Oakland Cemetery. It soon became the South's second most productive rolling mill. During the American Civil War it rolled out cannon, iron rail, and 2-inch-thick (51 mm) sheets of iron to clad the CSS Virginia for the Confederate navy. The mill was destroyed by the Union Army in 1864.[7]:427

The first true manufacturing establishment was opened in 1844, when Jonathan Norcross, who would later become mayor of Atlanta, arrived in Marthasville and built a sawmill. Richard Peters, Lemuel Grant, John Mims built a three-story flour mill, which was used as a pistol factory during the Civil War. In 1848, Austin Leyden started the town's first foundry and machine shop, which would later become the Atlanta Machine Works.[14]

Atlanta (Confederate) Rolling Mill, 1858-1864

Manufacturing and commerce

and had a bank, a daily newspaper, a factory to build freight cars, a new brick depot, property taxes, a gasworks, gas street lights, a theater, a medical college, and juvenile delinquency. :86[13] In 1854, a fourth rail line, the Atlanta and LaGrange Rail Road (later

Milledgeville to Atlanta.)[7]:370

In 1851 a third rail line, the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys, and the American Midwest. The union depot was completed in 1853 on State Square. That year, the depot's architect Edward A. Vincent also delivered Atlanta's first official map to the city council.

In 1846, a second railroad company, the Oakland Cemetery was founded southeast of town, where it remains today; it's within the city limits now.

The first Augusta (to the east of Atlanta), arrived in September 1845 and in that year the first hotel, the Atlanta Hotel, was opened.

A slave auction house on Whitehall Street

Growth and development into a regional rail hub

In 1842, when a two-story brick depot was built, the locals asked that the settlement of Terminus be called Lumpkin, after J. Edgar Thomson) suggested that Marthasville be renamed "Atlantica-Pacifica", which was quickly shortened to "Atlanta." The residents approved, apparently undaunted by the fact that not a single train had yet visited. The town of Atlanta was incorporated in 1847.

Meanwhile, settlement began at what would become the Buckhead section of Atlanta, several miles north of today's downtown. In 1838, Henry Irby started a tavern and grocery at what would become the intersection of Paces Ferry and Roswell Roads.

In 1842, the planned terminus location was moved, four blocks southeast (2-3 blocks southeast of Five Points), to what would become State Square, on Wall Street between Central Avenue and Pryor Street. (). It is at this location that the zero milepost can now be found, adjacent to the southern entrance of Underground Atlanta.[10] As the settlement grew, it became known as "Terminus," literally meaning "end of the line". By 1842, the settlement at Terminus had six buildings and 30 residents.

[7].Downtown Atlanta It was at this point that Thrasher built the Monroe Embankment, an earthen embankment that was to carry the Monroe Railway to meet the W&A at the terminus. This is the oldest existing man-made structure in [12] ()[11]

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