Before settlement by Europeans, Georgia was inhabited by the mound building cultures. The British colony of Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe on February 12, 1733. The colony was administered by the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America under a charter issued by (and named for) King George II. The Trustees implemented an elaborate plan for the colony's settlement, known as the Oglethorpe Plan, which envisioned an agrarian society of yeoman farmers and prohibited slavery. The colony was invaded by the Spanish in 1742, during the War of Jenkins' Ear. In 1752, after the government failed to renew subsidies that had helped support the colony, the Trustees turned over control to the crown. Georgia became a crown colony, with a governor appointed by the king.
The Province of Georgia was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution by signing the 1776 Declaration of Independence. The State of Georgia's first constitution was ratified in February 1777. Georgia was the 10th state to ratify the Articles of Confederation on July 24, 1778, and was the 4th state to ratify the current Constitution on January 2, 1788.
In 1829, gold was discovered in the North Georgia mountains, which led to the Georgia Gold Rush and an established federal mint in Dahlonega, which continued its operation until 1861. The subsequent influx of white settlers put pressure on the government to take land from the Cherokee Nation. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, sending many eastern Native American nations to reservations in present-day Oklahoma, including all of Georgia's tribes. Despite the Supreme Court's ruling in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that ruled U.S. states were not permitted to redraw the Indian boundaries, President Jackson and the state of Georgia ignored the ruling. In 1838, his successor, Martin Van Buren, dispatched federal troops to gather the Cherokee and deport them west of the Mississippi. This forced relocation, known as the Trail of Tears, led to the death of over 4,000 Cherokees.
In early 1861, Georgia joined the Confederacy and became a major theater of the Civil War. Major battles took place at Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta. In December 1864, a large swath of the state from Atlanta to Savannah was destroyed during General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea. 18,253 Georgian soldiers died in service, roughly one of every five who served. In 1870, following the Reconstruction Era, Georgia became the last Confederate state to be restored to the Union.
A girl spinner in a Georgia cotton mill, 1909.
With white Democrats having regained power in the state legislature, they passed a poll tax in 1877, which disenfranchised many poor blacks and whites, preventing them from registering. In 1908, the state established a white primary; with the only competitive contests within the Democratic Party, it was another way to exclude blacks from politics. They constituted 46.7% of the state's population in 1900, but the proportion of Georgia's population that was African American dropped thereafter to 28%, primarily due to tens of thousands leaving the state during the Great Migration. This political disfranchisement persisted through the mid-1960s, until after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
According to the Equal Justice Institute's 2015 report on lynching in the United States (1877-1950), Georgia had 531 deaths, the second-highest total of these crimes of any state in the South, exceeded by Mississippi. The overwhelming number of victims were black and male.