The largest of the U.S. states east of the Mississippi River and the youngest of the 13 former English colonies, Georgia was founded in 1732, at which time its boundaries were even larger—including much of the present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi.
By the mid-19th century, Georgia had the greatest number of plantations of any state in the South, and in many respects epitomized plantation culture and economic dependence on slavery. In 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman invaded Georgia, captured Atlanta and began his infamous March to the Sea, cutting a 200-mile-wide swath of fire and destruction reaching all the way to Savannah. Georgia’s landscape varies greatly as it sweeps from the Appalachian Mountains in the north to the marshes of the Atlantic coast on the southeast to the Okefenokee Swamp on the south.
Date of Statehood: January 2, 1788
Population: 9,687,653 (2010)
Size: 59,425 square miles
Nickname(s): Peach State; Empire State of the South
Motto: Wisdom, Justice and Moderation
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Tree: Live Oak
Flower: Cherokee Rose
Bird: Brown Thrasher
- Although initially conceived of by James Oglethorpe as a refuge for London’s indebted prisoners, Georgia was ultimately established in 1732 to protect South Carolina and other southern colonies from Spanish invasion through Florida.
- The 13th and last of the British colonies, Georgia was the only one to be governed remotely by a Board of Trustees in London for the first 20 years. It was also the only colony to prohibit slavery from its inception—along with lawyers and Roman Catholics.
- In September of 1906, a massacre broke out in Atlanta after newspaper reports of Black men allegedly assaulting white women. Although the attacks were never confirmed, thousands of angry white men gathered downtown, killing dozens of Black people and causing extensive damage to many Black-owned businesses. The massacre made both national and international headlines and influenced the subsequent statewide passage of prohibition in 1908.
- Georgia was the first of 10 states to vote against ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Even after it became federal law on August 26, 1920, Georgia women were prevented from voting until 1922. The state legislature did not officially ratify the amendment until 1970.
- In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights advocates formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta. Dedicating themselves to the nonviolent attainment of equal rights for African Americans, the group was a significant contributor to the civil rights movement and continues to be active on social justice issues.
- Georgia is the country’s number-one producer of peanuts and pecans, and vidalia onions, known as the sweetest onions in the world, can only be grown in the fields around Vidalia and Glennville. Another sweet treat from the Peach State is Coca-Cola, which was invented in Atlanta in 1886.