Atlanta History

Atlanta, A-Town, The ATL….whatever you want to call it, there is no denying that this southern town has a rich and diverse history. Three major factors affecting Atlanta’s history are transportation, race relations, and the Atlanta spirit.

Formerly called Terminus, and later Marthasville, the city we now know as Atlanta experienced extreme growth due to the convergence of three railroad lines that connected the frontier town to other far away areas in the southeast. In more recent times, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport has become one of the busiest in the world. Starting with only international flights to Mexico City, the Atlanta airport now has a multitude of international routes, largely in part to the deregulation of the airline industry. The increase of air transportation, as well as the creation of Atlanta’s major highways, Interstate 285 and Georgia 400, played a large role in the convention and tourism businesses.

Race relations in Atlanta trace back to the Civil War. As the fourth largest city in Georgia by 1860, the population of just under ten thousand was comprised of both enslaved and free African- Americans. In 1864, as a home front for war material production, Atlanta was seized by General William G. Sherman and his troops. This resulted in many businesses and homes in Atlanta being burned to the ground. As people began to reclaim Atlanta, the African American population grew to 40 percent due to the education opportunities that were available. A very segregated city was formed until the 1960’s when racial barriers began to be torn down. By 1970, African-Americans were a majority in Atlanta.

The third marker of historical growth in Atlanta is the “Atlanta Spirit”. In other words, the belief that any kind of business that was good and profitable was also good for Atlanta and its residents. This attitude not only fostered economic growth but also a booming art, music, and cultural scene. It transformed Atlanta into a prominent urban center.

While Atlanta’s history and growth are both deep and rich, the most influential factors have been the journey from a racially segregated town to one where African-American culture is celebrated and revered, the implementation of travel systems such as airlines, highways, bus systems, and trains that brought commerce and development to a once unheard of town, and the niche for booming business that still shines today. As diverse and culturally enticing as ever, Atlanta is continually making strides in history that will be marveled at for generations to come.

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