Atlanta: History


Hardy Ivy, the first settler, built (1833) a cabin on what had been Creek tribal land. The town, founded (1837) as Terminus, one end of the Western & Atlantic rail line, was incorporated as Marthasville in 1843 and renamed Atlanta in 1845. It became a rail and marketing hub and in the Civil War was a communication and supply center; it fell to Gen. W. T. Sherman on Sept. 2, 1864 (see Atlanta campaign). Most of the city was burned on Nov. 15, before Sherman began his march to the sea. Rapidly rebuilt, it thrived as a commercial and industrial center, and became temporary (1868) and permanent (1877, following a popular vote) capital of Georgia. Conventions and expositions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries drew attention to the city's growth and strategic position. In 1973, Atlanta became the first major Southern city to elect an African American as mayor, Maynard Jackson. By then it was already losing residents to its rapidly expanding suburbs; in the late 1990s the metropolitan area had a population close to 4 million, and “sprawl” had become a major concern. This number continued to increase, topping 6 million in the 2020 census.

In 1981, Andrew Young was elected mayor, serving for two terms through 1990, and hosting the Democratic National Convention there in 1988. In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympic Games, an event marred by the Centennial Park bombing, in which two people were killed and dozens injured. In 2001, Shirley Franklin was elected mayor, the first Black woman to lead a major Southern city and Atlanta's first female mayor. In 2008, the first recorded tornado (since weather records began in 1880) tore through the city's downtown, doing damage to major sporting arenas and other buildings. Keisha Lance Bottoms (2017-21) served as the city's mayor during a period when riots occurred following the shooting of George Floyd and the subsequent killing of Rayshard Brooks outside of a fast food restaurant in the city. Widely viewed as a rising star in the Democratic party, she surprised political insiders by declining to run for a second term.

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