Georgia State Study

GeorgiaGeorgia is on the Atlantic coast of the United States just south of South Carolina and north of Florida.  A little over half of the state is on the Atlantic coastal plain, a low lying and often swampy area along the coast.  Further inland the elevation rises into the foothills of the southern Appalachian mountains.  Georgia is far enough south that it has a humid subtropical climate.  This makes it perfect for pecans, peaches, cotton, and tobacco.

Georgia History

Georgia has been home to many people, the Mississippian culture mound builders being the most advanced and prolific pre-Columbian people we know of.  They were succeeded by the Cherokee, Creek, and Yamasee peoples who were descended in part at least form the Mississippian culture.  The first European settlements in the area were short lived and decidedly unimportant from the standpoint of history.  Eventually the English began to trade successfully with the native people for deer skins and native slaves captured by warring Indians.

All through this time though Georgia had been claimed by the Spanish.  However it was the British who began to trade, explore, and establish settlements in the area.  The conflict involved armed invasions, treaties and maneuvering involving the tribes, and repeated depredations on both sides.  By 1703 the Spanish were out of the picture and the British allies, the Yamasee were occupying all the coastal lands.    Politics changed though and the Yamasee were disastrously defeated by the British, their lands depopulated in a violent war which ended in 1717, leaving the land clear for British settlements.

This is a sunrise in Georgia. Photo by John Trainor, CC license, Wikimedia.

 

The British used the now available land in Georgia to deport criminals and debtors from their over crowded prisons at home.  The first permanent settlement was at Savannah.  At the beginning of the Georgia colony African slavery was explicitly banned, but by 1749 the ban was overturned due to economic pressures from the nearby Carolinas, which did use slaves in agriculture.

As the economy of Georgia improved rich white planters from other southern colonies moved in, taking over politics and the economy and creating a genteel class.  Georgia became a royal colony in 1752, but by 1776 the popularity of monarchy had evaporated and Georgia was united with the northern colonies in demanding an end to monarchy and a revolution to republicanism.  During the war Georgian inhabitants lost an estimated half of all personal property and land value, but came though with their ideals in tact and ratified the new US Constitution in 1788.

In 1830 an influx of white settlers were demanding more land.  The Cherokee, an autonomous nation with a written constitution and thriving cities, were forcibly removed from their land and sent west to Oklahoma on a forced march with military escort in 1838.  Over 4000 Cherokee died on the journey, which became known as the Trail of Tears.

This is a portion of the Trail of Tears in Tennessee. Photo by Brian Stansberry, CC license, Wikimedia.

By the time of the American Civil War cotton had taken over the economy of Georgia and slavery was deeply entrenched.  Georgia played an important role in the Civil War, sending many soldiers to the front, switching agricultural production from cotton to food and developing munitions factories. Georgia also suffered bitterly as food ran short and men became scarce.  The Georgian women, on more than one occasion, raided food stores and stole supplies from Union troops.  Sherman’s march through Georgia during which his troops burned and raided everything in sight left Georgia destroyed for decades.

Georgia was on fire with race wars and violent politics for years after the civil war, requiring military government for periods of time.  The Ku Klux Klan got its start under these conditions.  Eventually however, the political and economic scene cooled down enough for Georgia to begin true economic recovery, though dismal race relations, unlawful behavior, rejection of federal mandates and laws, and the Klan remained serious problems to good social order.  In the 1960’s a man named Dr. Martin Luther King from Atlanta drove the civil rights movement to change the social order of the south and the nation as a whole.  Georgia was turned on its head.

This photo is of Martin Luther King Jr. at a press conference. The photograph is part of the collection of the Library of Congress and is in the public domain.

Economic growth since the 1960’s has been phenomenal in Georgia which boasts one of the largest international airports in the world, inexpensive real-estate, right-to-work laws, low taxes, and few corporate restrictions.  Today Georgia’s economy is based on a myriad of industries and products including food production, textiles, paper products, chemical products, mining, timber, media, and tourism.

Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Daniel Mayer, CC license, Wikimedia.

Fabulous Facts

  • The first gold rush in US history happened in 1829 in Georgia
  • Literacy in Georgia was extremely high during the colonial period and for several decades following the establishment of the United States, but by the time of the Civil War, a steep decline in schooling among the poorer classes had occurred as the government and economy increasingly were controlled by a few rich white planters.
  • Gone With The Wind, tells the story of a rich Georgian family during the Civil War, describing the devastation and destitution of the late war and aftermath.
  • The state animal is “Pogo Possum”
  • The state song is “Georgia On My Mind”, actually written about a woman named Georgia, but hey, it works.
  • Famous Georgians include: Hulk Hogan, Sidney Lanier, Alice Walker, Margaret Mitchell, James Bowie, Ray Charles, Ty Cobb, Amy Grant, Martin Luther King Jr, Gladys Knight, Otis Redding, Burt Reynolds, Jackie Robinson, Clarence Thomas, and many more.
  • Georgia is the sight of the Okefenokee Sweamp, a huge wetland area.
  • The pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach made an island off the Georgia coast his base.
  • The chicken capital of the world is in Gainsville, where it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork.
  • Georgia was named for George II of England; it was George the III the colonists rebelled against.
  • Cox, Chick-Fil-A, Arby’s, Coca Cola, Home Depot, Georgia-Pacific, Delta, Rubbermaid, UPS, Aflac, CNN, The Weather Channel and many more major businesses are based in Georgia.

Map of Georgia Exploration

Color a Georgia Map.

Georgia mapUse a student Atlas and include the major cities, rivers, national parks, and other landmarks.

Additional Layers

  • Learn more about the Yamasee War or the Trail of Tears
  • Learn the history of the Ku Klux Klan
  • Learn the history of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Choose a famous Georgian and write a biography.
  • Learn more about one of the businesses based in Georgia.  How did it get started? How many people does it employ?  How much revenue does the business bring in on a yearly basis?  Where does the business operate?
  • Create an illustrated timeline of Georgia history.
  • Read a book or watch a movie or play of Georgia: Gone With the Wind, The Color Purple, Driving Miss Daisy, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Brer Rabbit, The Prince of Tides.

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