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When Europeans first arrived in what is now Georgia, the area was inhabited by Cherokee and Creek Indians. It is not certain who was the first European to visit Georgia, but it is possible that Juan Ponce de Leon (who named Florida) sailed along the coast. In any case, in the 16th century, both French and Spanish explorers visited the area and attempted to establish colonies.
Britain and Spain came into conflict over the area in the 1670s, when the new British colony of South Carolina began to clash with the Northern missionary provinces of Spanish Florida. The Spanish missionary provinces were destroyed in 1704 by Yamasee Indians who were allied with the British, but the Yamasee were in turn decimated in the Yamasee War of 1715 to 1716 and then fled to Florida. This left the coast of Georgia depopulated, and the British were quick to exploit this with the establishment of a new colony and massive immigration beginning in the early 1730s.
During the American Revolution, Savannah was captured by British and Loyalist forces. Georgia had a functioning Loyalist government of the coastal regions, and remained, with New York City, a Loyalist bastion until the end of the war.
Gold was discovered in the North of the state 1829, and this prompted a brief gold rush and the establishment of a Federal Mint which continued to operate until 1861. As a result of the arrival of white settlers, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed, and all the Eastern Indian tribes, including Georgia's Cherokee population, was sent West to Indian reservations in Oklahoma.
Georgia was a slave state, and seceded to join the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). During the Civil War, Georgia was the scene of many battles, Atlanta was burned to the ground, and the state was also the scene of General Sherman's March to the Sea (which of course forms the background setting to Gone with the Wind).
During the civil rights period, Georgia was an important battleground. The state governor Marvin Griffin pleding to defend racial segregation "come hell or high water", but other Georgians worked for civil rights, the latter group including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the campaigning editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Ralph Emerson McGill.
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