Atlanta's origin as a railroad settlement was evident in its original name—Terminus—when founded as a village in 1837. It was to this spot that the Western & Atlantic railroad was to run southward from the Tennessee state line, and from here that it would connect with other parts of the state. Reinforcing the white settlers' hold on the area was an edict forcing 17,000 Cherokee and Creek Indians hundreds of miles westward, on the route that became known as the "Trail of Tears." The town was renamed Marthasville in 1843, Atlanta two years later, and incorporated in 1848. By the start of the

The Phoenix was adopted as the symbol of Atlanta after the Civil War. ()
Civil War (1861–65), Atlanta was a bustling commercial center.

In 1861, after vigorous public debate, Atlanta decided to become one of the 11 states seceding from the Union over the issue of slavery, even making a bid to become the capital of the Confederacy—an honor that ultimately went to Richmond, Virginia. The rail links that had allowed the city to rise to prominence before the war made it a vital supply depot and medical center during the conflict, a fact that also made it an attractive target for Union forces. In the summer of 1864 Confederate forces under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to the city, which was first occupied and then virtually burned to the ground by Union troops.

Military occupation by Union soldiers continued until 1876, but the city began energetically rebuilding. The railroads were repaired, and new homes, businesses, and cultural and educational institutions sprang up. In 1877 Atlanta became the permanent capital of Georgia; in 1888 it adopted as its official symbol a phoenix rising from the ashes, as the city itself had done. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, the city's population more than doubled, to 90,000.

The city continued its rapid growth in the early twentieth century, its population reaching 155,000 by 1910 and continuing to rise in spite of a second catastrophic fire in 1917. The city's black population grew rapidly, and the early years of the century were marred by the racial intolerance common throughout the South. In 1900 Atlanta professor W. E. B. du Bois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), still the nation's leading advocacy institution for blacks. Following race riots in the early 1900s, the black business community formed its own successful enclave on Auburn Street, where it thrived. Eventually, Atlanta became a center of black higher education, characterized by long-time mayor William Hartsfield as a city "too busy to hate." With the rise to prominence of Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta became a hub of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Atlanta, begun as a rail terminus, continued its tradition of transportation leadership with the completion of its first airport in 1929 and its rapid rise to become one of the nation's major air transport centers. Improved facilities followed in rapid succession in 1961, 1977, and 1980, the year the new Harts-field International Airport opened. "Whether you're going to heaven or hell," it has been said, "you'll have to change planes in Atlanta."

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Atlanta Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 2,689,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1837 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $93 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $36 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $22 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals) $131 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 1 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Atlanta Journal-Constitution Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 303,698 1,159,450 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1868 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

In the post-war decades Atlanta has become an increasingly cosmopolitan city, drawing a growing number of international travelers with such facilities as a 4,500-seat civic center, a 16,000-seat coliseum, and a 232,250-square-meter (two-and-a-half-million-square-foot) convention center. The city acquired three major-league sports teams in the 1960s. In 1988, Atlanta gained international attention when it hosted the Democratic National Convention. The global spotlight shone even more brightly on the city in the 1990s, as it prepared for the 1996 Olympics, transforming its landscape with the construction of the Olympic Village. The Games drew 11,000 athletes from 197 different countries—a record for the modern Olympics. They were marred by a bombing in Centennial Olympic Park that killed two people and injured more than 100, but the Games went on as scheduled. Crowds soon flocked back to the park, and the focus returned to the athletes themselves, whose triumphs ultimately provided the main drama of the Games and left the city with indelible positive images of the long-planned event.