Atlanta was first named Terminus, for its location was the end of a railroad line. Founded in 1837, it was incorporated as Marthasville in 1843 and became Atlanta in 1845. Even before the Civil War it was a railroad and marketing hub. Then came the city's siege and destruction by the Union army in 1864, after which practically 90 percent of the city had to be rebuilt. Very little of the old town remains. After the Civil War, Atlanta recovered quickly, primarily because of the completion of several rail lines that put the struggling town in the center of a rapidly expanding transportation network. Because of its rapid rise, Atlanta was named the capital of Georgia in 1868. Today, with a metropolitan population of nearly 3 million, Atlanta and its environs constitute by far the largest city in the Southeast, home to many leading American corporations---among them Coca-Cola and CNN---as well as 29 colleges and universities.
Atlanta's character has evolved from a mix of peoples: Transplanted Northerners and people from elsewhere account for 50 percent of the population and have undeniably affected the mood and character of the city. Irish immigrants had a major role in the city's early history, along with Germans and Austrians; the Hungarian-born Rich brothers founded Atlanta's principal department store. In the past two decades, Atlanta has seen spirited growth in its Asian and Latin-American communities. Atlanta's Asian-American and Latino citizens can point with pride to their economic and civic accomplishments. Their restaurants, shops, and institutions have become part of the city's texture.
For more than four decades, Atlanta has been linked to the civil rights movement. Among the many accomplishments of Atlanta's African-American community is the Nobel Peace Prize that Martin Luther King, Jr., won in 1964. Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, continues to operate the King Center, which she founded after her husband's assassination in 1968. In 1972 Andrew Young was elected the first black congressman from the South since Reconstruction.
The traditional and romantic image of the South, with lacy moss dangling from tree limbs, thick, sugary Southern drawls, a leisurely pace, and luxurious antebellum mansions, is rarely seen here. Even before the Civil War, the columned house was a rarity. The frenetic pace of building that characterized the period after the Civil War has continued unabated. Still viewed by die-hard Southerners as the heart of the Old Confederacy, Atlanta has become the best example of the New South, a fast-paced modern city proud of its heritage.