- This article is about the state capital of Georgia. For other things named Atlanta, please see Atlanta (disambiguation).
Atlanta is the capital and largest city of Georgia, a state of the United States of America. It is the county seat of Fulton County, although a portion of the city (the 1909 annex) is located in DeKalb County (East Atlanta). According to the 2000 census, the city had a population of 416,474, and the Atlanta metropolitan area totalled 4,247,981, a 38.4% increase since 1990, making it the eleventh largest metropolitan area in the United States.
Atlanta's development began in the early 19th century as a railroad hub. It was largely destroyed by Union forces during the Civil War, but recovered in time to be chosen the state capital shortly thereafter. In the 20th century, Atlanta was a center for the American Civil Rights Movement and served as the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics.
One of the city's nicknames, "The Phoenix City", relates to its rise after the Civil War. The phoenix appears in many of Atlanta's symbols, including its seal and flag. During much of the 20th century, Atlanta billed itself as "The City Too Busy to Hate".
The region where Atlanta and its suburbs were built was originally Creek and Cherokee Indian territory. After these tribes were deported along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma by the Federal government, white settlement in the area increased rapidly.
Atlanta was first planned in 1836 as a terminus on the Western & Atlantic Railroad, for lines connecting from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Macon, and Athens. The terminus was originally planned for Decatur, but its citizens did not want it. Another spot was arbitrarily picked, around which the village of Terminus grew up in expectation of railroad traffic. Subsequently called Marthasville, the city was renamed Atlanta in 1847, by which time several of the railroad lines were already in operation. Besides Decatur, several other suburbs of Atlanta predate the city by several years, including Marietta and Lawrenceville.
A slave auction house on Whitehall St., before Sherman burned Atlanta
In 1864, the city became the target of a major Union invasion in the American Civil War, and the scene of the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the Battle of Atlanta, later immortalized in the novel and film Gone With the Wind. 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 union assets destroyed. Sherman's forces entered Atlanta the next day and Sherman ordered the civilian population to evacuate on September 7. He then ordered Atlanta burned to the ground on November 11 in preparation for his punitive march south. 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, giving the North more confidence, and leading to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and the eventual surrender of the Confederacy.
After the war, Atlanta was gradually rebuilt and soon became the industrial and commercial center of the South. From 1867 until 1888, US Army soldiers occupied McPherson Barracks (later renamed Fort McPherson) in southwest Atlanta to ensure Reconstruction era reforms. To help the newly freed slaves the federal government set up a Freedmen's Bureau which helped establish what is now Clark Atlanta University, one of several historically black colleges in Atlanta. In 1868, Atlanta became the fifth city to serve as the state capital. Henry W. Grady, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution, promoted the city to investors as a city of the "New South," by which he meant a diversification of the economy away from agriculture and a shift from the "Old South" attitiudes of slavery and rebellion.
In 1907, Peachtree Street, the main stree of Atlanta, was busy with streetcars and automobiles.
As Atlanta grew, ethnic and racial tensions mounted. A race riot in 1906 left at least twelve dead and over seventy injured. In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish supervisor at an Atlanta factory, was put on trial for raping and murdering a thirteen-year old white employee. After doubts about Frank's guilt led his death sentence to be commuted in 1915, riots broke out in Atlanta and Frank was lynched.
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. With the entry of the United States into World War II, soldiers from around the southeast went through Atlanta to train and later be discharged at Fort McPherson. War-related manufacturing such as the Bell Aircraft factory in the suburb of 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 was founded in Atlanta from the old Malaria Control in War Areas offices and staff.
In the 1960s, Atlanta was a major organizing center of the civil rights movement, with Dr. Martin Luther King and students from Atlanta's historically black colleges 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, drawing attention from the national media and from presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. Despite this incident, Atlanta's political and business leaders fostered Atlanta's image as "the city too busy to hate" by avoiding the types of violent confrontations that took place in Selma and Birmingham, Alabama.
In 1990, the International Olympic Committee selected Atlanta as the site for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Following the announcement, Atlanta undertook several major construction projects to improve the city's parks, sports facilities, and transportation. The games themselves were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, which resulted in the death of two people and injured several others.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 343.0 km² (132.4 mi²). 341.2 km² (131.8 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.51% water.
At about 1000 feet or 300 meters above mean sea level, Atlanta sits atop a ridge south of the Chattahoochee River. Amongst the 25 largest MSAs, Atlanta is the third-highest in elevation — behind slightly higher Phoenix and 1 mile (1,600 m) high Denver. Though now somewhat offset by the urban heat island effect, this still results in a climate more moderate than many other cities in the South of the U.S., despite its common nickname, "Hotlanta".
According to folklore, its central avenue, Peachtree Street, runs through the center of the city on the Eastern Continental Divide. In actuality, the divide line enters Atlanta from the southwest, proceeding to downtown. From downtown, the divide line runs eastward along DeKalb Avenue and the CSX rail lines through Decatur. Rainwater that falls on the south and east side runs eventually into the Atlantic Ocean while rainwater on the north and west side of the divide runs into the Gulf of Mexico.
The latter is via the Chattahoochee River, part of the ACF River Basin, and from which Atlanta and many of its neighbors draw most of their water. Being at the far northwestern edge of the city, much of the river's natural habitat is still preserved, in part by the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Downstream however, excessive water use during droughts and pollution during floods has been a source of contention and legal battles with neighboring states Alabama and Florida.
Average annual rainfall is about 54 inches (1370 mm) typically with late winter and early spring (as well as July) being the wettest and fall being the driest. Average annual snowfall is about 3.5 inches (9 cm), falling mostly in January and early February. Snow (or ice) occurs as early as December or as late as mid-March; since 1878 snow has fallen only three times in October and four in April. Winters are cool to cold for short periods, with January daily lows near freezing and highs near 47 °F (8 °C). Summers are hot and humid, with July mornings near 52 °F (11 °C) and afternoons near 87 °F (31 °C), slight breezes, and typically a 20–30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
Spring weather is pleasant but variable, as cold fronts often bring strong or severe thunderstorms to almost all of the eastern and central U.S.. Pollen counts tend to be extraordinarily high in the spring, regularly exceeding 2000 particles per cubic meter in April and causing hay fever. Oak pollen leaves a fine yellow-green film on everything for much of that month. The rain helps wash out Atlanta's abundant oak, pine, and juniper tree pollens, and fuels beautiful blooms from native dogwood trees, as well as azaleas, forsythias, magnolias, and of course peach trees, both flowering-only and fruiting. The city-wide floral display runs during March and April, and inspires the Dogwood Festival, one of Atlanta's largest. Fall is also pleasant, with less rain and fewer storms, lower humidity, and leaves changing color from late October to mid-November, especially during drier years.
Government and politics
The city has a mayor (currently Shirley Franklin) and a city council. The mayor may veto a bill passed by the council, but the council may override with a two-thirds majority. The Atlanta Board of Education runs the Atlanta Public Schools, and owns and operates radio station WABE-FM at 90.1 MHz.
In July 2004, Atlanta became the first city in the state to impose a sales tax of its own, bringing the total to 8% in both the Fulton and DeKalb parts of the city. This passed in a referendum during the July 20th primary election with a 75% majority, after being allowed by the state legislature earlier in 2004. The sales tax helped to reduce a huge rate increase on water and sewer bills, necessary to pay three billion dollars in bonds to fix the city's aging (and in places decrepit) municipal water and sewer systems. Combined sewer overflows will also be eliminated, so that runoff water is separated, preventing diluted sewage from overflowing at water treatment plants during heavy rains.
As the state capital, Atlanta is also the site of most of Georgia's state government, including the Georgia State Capitol (topped with gold from Dahlonega, Georgia), the General Assembly, and the residence of the Governor of Georgia in Buckhead. It is also home to Georgia Public Broadcasting headquarters and Peachnet, and is the county seat of Fulton County, with which it shares responsibility for the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.
The census of 2000 states there are 416,474 people, (423,019 as of 2003 estimates), 168,147 households, and 83,232 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,221/km² (3,161/mi²). There are 186,925 housing units at an average density of 548/km² (1,419/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 33.22% White, 61.39% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 1.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.99% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. 4.49% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 168,147 households out of which 22.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 24.5% are married couples living together, 20.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 50.5% are non-families. 38.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 3.16.
In the city the population is spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 35.2% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $34,770, and the median income for a family is $37,231. Males have a median income of $36,162 compared to $30,178 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,772, and 24.4% of the population and 21.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 38.8% of those under the age of 18 and 20.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Business and development
Despite romantic associations, Atlanta has always been more a commercial city than an ante-bellum monument. It is the major center of regional commerce, and boasts an especially strong convention and trade show business. According to the ranking of world cities undertaken by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC) and based on the level of presence of global corporate service organisations, Atlanta is considered a gamma or minor world city.
Several major national and international companies are headquartered in Atlanta or its nearby suburbs, including The Coca-Cola Company, BellSouth, United Parcel Service in Sandy Springs and home-grown Home Depot. Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus has donated more than 200 million dollars to build the new Georgia Aquarium. Newell Rubbermaid recently moved to the area as well. Atlanta also has its own Flatiron Building, built before (1897) the better-known one in New York City (1902).
On the north side of the city near Midtown, the former Atlantic Steel plant is being redeveloped as Atlantic Station, a mixed-use urban renewal project combining housing, retail, and office space, and promoted as one solution to Atlanta's ever more serious traffic and summer smog problems. The metro area has one of America's longest daily commutes, and is one of the most car-dependent cities on the planet, both due to suburban sprawl, and lack of large nearby lakes or mountains to compress growth. It also has a notorious reputation as being one of the most dangerous for pedestrians, as far back as 1949, when Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell was struck by a speeding car and killed.
The city is a major cable television programming source; CNN Center, headquarters of the Cable News Network, is in Atlanta where the network was founded, and The Weather Channel broadcasts from just outside of town. In addition to CNN, Ted Turner's (and now Time Warner's) other networks from Atlanta include Cartoon Network/Adult Swim and companion channel Boomerang, TNT, Turner South, CNN International, CNN en Español, CNN Headline News, CNN Airport Network, and TBS. Atlanta's WTBS channel 17 (originally WTCG) was Turner's start in television in the 1970s, after he bought the struggling UHF TV station, turning it into a profitable venture which still broadcasts "Superstation" TBS locally and nationally. Atlanta's WSB was the first AM radio station in the South. There are also many Atlanta FM radio stations that play music of different kinds.
The city is a hub for several interstate highways. I-20 runs east-west through the city, while I-75 and I-85 run roughly north-south and join near the center of the city as the Downtown Connector before splitting off again. The bypass for all three interstates I-285 circles Atlanta and some of its inner suburbs. To locals I-285 is known as "the perimeter" and marks a dividing line between inner suburbs and outer suburbs.
MARTA is the public transit agency, operating the subway and bus system. However, many commuters in Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs use automobiles as their primary mode of transportation. This results in heavy traffic during rush hour and contributes to Atlanta's air pollution problems. In recent years, the Atlanta metro area has ranked at or near the top of the longest average commute time in the US.
The city of Atlanta operates the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of two airports considered the busiest in the world, and providing air service to and from many national and international destinations. It is situated 10 miles south of downtown, adjacent to the intersection of I-85 and I-285. The MARTA rail system has a station within the airport terminal, and provides direct service to the business areas in downtown Atlanta, Buckhead and Sandy Springs.
Atlanta grew up as a railroad town and is still today a major rail junction, with several busy freight lines belonging to Norfolk Southern and CSX intersecting below street level in the downtown area. Long distance passenger service is provided by Amtrak's Crescent train which connects Atlanta with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Birmingham and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 1688 Peachtree St. N.W., several miles north of downtown and not well located for onward public transportation. An ambitious long-standing proposal would create a Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal in downtown adjacent to Philips Arena and the Five-Points MARTA station which would link MARTA bus and rail, proposed new commuter rail service to other Georgia cities, and Amtrak in a single facility.
Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service between Atlanta and many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The Greyhound terminal is situated at 232 Forsyth Street, on the southern edge of the downtown area and directly beneath MARTA's Garnett rail station.
Attractions, events, and recreation
Atlanta boasts a variety of museums on subjects ranging from history to fine arts, natural history, and beverages. Prominent among them are sites honoring Atlanta's participation in the civil rights movement. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in the city, and his boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn district is preserved as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Meetings with other civil rights leaders, including Hosea Williams and current Congressman John Lewis, often happened at Paschal's, a diner and motor inn which was a favorite for "colored" people, banned from "white" restaurants in an era of racial segregation and intolerance. King's final resting place is in the tomb at the center of the reflecting pool at the King Center.
Other history museums and attractions include the Atlanta History Center; the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum (a huge rotating painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War); the Carter Center and Presidential Library; and the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.
The arts are represented by several theaters and museums, including the Fox Theatre. The Woodruff Arts Center is home to the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony, High Museum of Art, and Atlanta College of Art. Museums geared specifically towards children include the Fernbank Science Center and Imagine It! Atlanta's Children's Museum. The High Museum of Art is the city's major fine/visual arts venue, with a significant permanent collection and an assortment of traveling exhibitions.
A unique museum is the World of Coca-Cola featuring the history of the world famous soft drink brand and its well-known advertising. Adjacent is Underground Atlanta, a historic shopping and entertainment complex situated under the streets of downtown Atlanta. While not a museum per se, The Varsity is the main branch of the long-lived fast food chain, featured as the world's largest drive-in restaurant.
The heart of the city's festivals is Piedmont Park. In 1887, a group of prominent Atlantans purchased 189 acres (0.76 km²) of farmland to build a horse racing track, later developed into the site of the Cotton States International Exposition of 1895. In 1904, the city council purchased the land for $99,000, and today it is the largest park in metro Atlanta, with more than 2.5 million visitors each year. The grounds were part of the Battle at Peachtree Creek – a Confederate division occupied the northern edge on July 20, 1864 as part of the outer defense line against Sherman's approach. Next to the park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Zoo Atlanta, home to its own panda exhibit, is located in Grant Park. Scheduled to open in 2005 is the Georgia Aquarium.
Just east of the city, Stone Mountain is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. On its face are giant carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. It is also the site of impressive laser shows in the summer.
Jermaine Dupri's 2001 hip hop single "Welcome to Atlanta" declares Atlanta the "new Motown", referencing the city of Detroit, Michigan, which was known for its contributions to popular music. A significant number of Atlanteans have become successful musicians, including artists such as Jerry Reed, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Kelly Rowland, Blaque, Ludacris, and Lil Jon, to name a few. Others, such as Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, have moved to the city and made it their home.
Producers L.A. Reid and Babyface founded LaFace Records in Atlanta in the late-1980s; the label has eventually become the home to multi-platinum selling artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Usher and Ciara, many of whom are Atlanteans themselves. It is also the home of So So Def Recors, a label founded by Jermaine Dupri in the mid-1990s, that signed acts such as Da Brat, Jagged Edge, Xscape, and Lil Bow Wow. The success of LaFace and SoSo Def led to Atlanta as an established scene for record labels such as LaFace parent company Arista to set up satillite offices.
Popular annual cultural events include:
- Atlanta Dogwood Festival, a Spring arts and crafts festival at Piedmont Park.
- Music Midtown - Three-day music festival in early summer.
- Georgia Renaissance Festival
- Sweet Auburn SpringFest
- Atlanta in fiction
Atlanta has a rich sports history, including the first intercollegiate football game in the South, Auburn vs. Georgia in 1892. Currently it hosts college football's annual Peach Bowl and the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10K race. Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. Centennial Olympic Park was built for 1996 Summer Olympics, in a downtown area of dilapidated buildings. It is now operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.
The city is also host to four different major league sports. The Atlanta Braves baseball team has been the Major League Baseball franchise of Atlanta since 1966; the franchise was previously known as the Boston Braves (1912-1952), and the Milwaukee Braves (1953-1965). The team was founded in 1871 in Boston, Massachusetts as a National Association club, making it the oldest continuously operating sports franchise in North American sports. The Braves won the World Series in 1995 and have had an unprecedented run of twelve divisional championships since 1991.
The Atlanta Falcons American football team has been Atlanta's National Football League franchise since 1966. They have won the division title three times, and a conference championship once, only to go on to lose to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
The Atlanta Hawks basketball team has been the National Basketball Association franchise of Atlanta since 1969; the team was previously known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1946-1951), Milwaukee Hawks (1951-55), St. Louis Hawks (1955-68). Their only NBA championship was in 1958, when they were the St. Louis Hawks.
The Atlanta Thrashers hockey team has been Atlanta's National Hockey League franchise since 1999, replacing the Atlanta Flames which departed for Calgary in 1980, becoming the Calgary Flames. They have yet to make it to the playoffs.
From 2001 to 2003 Atlanta hosted the Atlanta Beat soccer team of the defunct Women's United Soccer Association. They appeared in two of the three Founders Cup championships held, losing to the Bay Area CyberRays in 2001, and the Washington Freedom team in 2003.
Other nearby sports facilities include Atlanta Motor Speedway, a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) NASCAR race track in Hampton, Georgia.
Atlanta is home to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl plays at the Georgia Dome and matches a SEC team against an ACC opponent.
Atlanta is home to numerous institutions of higher education, including
Other institutions in the metro area include
Atlanta has several sister cities, arranged by the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission. Listed chronologically, these are:
- Salzburg, Austria - 1967
- Montego Bay, Jamaica - 1972
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 1972
- Lagos, Nigeria - 1974
- Taipei, Taiwan - 1974
- Toulouse, France - 1974
- Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England - 1977
- Daegu, Korea - 1981
- Brussels, Belgium - 1983
- Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - 1987
- Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia - 1988
- Bucharest, Romania - 1994
- Ancient Olympia, Greece - 1994
- Cotonou, Benin - 1995
- Salcedo, Dominican Republic - 1996
- Nuremberg, Germany - 1998
- Ra'annana, Israel - 2000
- Fukuoka, Japan - 2005
- Frederick Allen. Atlanta Rising. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996. A detailed history of Atlanta from 1946 to 1996, with much about City Councilman, later Mayor, William B. Hartsfield's work in making Atlanta a major air transport hub, and about the civil rights movement as it affected (and was affected by) Atlanta.
Clinton, Paul (Apr. 20, 2000). Diana Ross' tour excludes old partner, friend"
- Darlene R. Roth and Andy Ambrose. Metropolitan Frontiers: A short history of Atlanta. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996. An overview of the city's history with an emphasis on its growth.
- Elise Reid Boylston. Atlanta: Its Lore, Legends and Laughter. Doraville: privately printed, 1968. Lots of neat anecdotes about the history of the city.
- Atlanta, Then and Now. Part of the Then and Now book series.
- Atlanta, GA (http://fotw.vexillum.com/flags/us-ga-at.html) (Source for Atlanta Flag)
- Georgia Humanities Council. The New Georgia Encyclopedia.  (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Home.jsp)
- Maps and aerial photos
- Street map from Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?latlongtype=decimal&latitude=33.759506&longitude=-84.403176&zoom=6)
- Topographic map from Topozone (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=33.759506&lon=-84.403176&s=200&size=m&layer=DRG100)
- Aerial photograph from Terraserver (http://terraservice.net/map.aspx?t=1&s=14&lon=-84.403176&lat=33.759506&w=750&h=500)
- Travel guide to Atlanta from Wikitravel
- City of Atlanta government (http://www.atlantaga.gov/)
- Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (http://www.acvb.com/)
- Access Atlanta (http://www.accessatlanta.com/)