Let's have a little fun with a pop quiz about Atlanta's past. Ready? Here we go.
1. The Early Days of Atlanta
The railroads are a key part of Atlanta history. This locomotive, the Texas, at Atlanta History Center, became famous during the Civil War.
Q: What was Atlanta’s original name?
A: Atlanta originally was called Terminus, a reference to the southern terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. The city’s first official name was Marthasville, for Martha Lumpkin, daughter of Georgia Gov. Wilson Lumpkin. The city became known as Atlanta in 1845. Inspiration for the word "Atlanta" came from the Western & "Atlantic" Railroad.
Q: What event in 1895 put Atlanta on the map, in a good way, three decades after the city’s destruction during the Civil War?
A: The 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition, held in Piedmont Park (today a popular green space). The exposition placed a national spotlight on Atlanta and signaled that the city devastated by the Civil War was back and open for business.
2. Atlanta During the Civil War
The Battle of Atlanta cyclorama is a must-see at Atlanta History Center. (📷 Melissa McAlpine)
Q: What is the significance of July 22, 1864?
A: That is the date of the Battle of Atlanta, a crucial turning point in the war when Union forces prevailed. The battle is depicted in the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama at Atlanta History Center.
Q: Who was Carrie Berry and what is her link to the Civil War and Atlanta?
A: Carrie Berry was a young girl who lived with her family at the corner of Fairlie and Walton streets in Downtown Atlanta during the Civil War. The diary she kept during the war is available for public viewing at Atlanta History Center's Kenan Research Center.
One entry in her diary is as follows: "...Soon after breakfast, Zuie and I were standing on the platform between the house and the dining room and a very large shell filled with balls fell by the garden gate and burst. The pieces flew in every direction. I never was so frightened in my life."
3. Civil Rights Movement
MLK, beloved son of the city, preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Q: What icon of the civil rights movement was born on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue in 1928?
A: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His birth home is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park.
Q: What Atlanta restaurant, founded in 1936, was the first in the city to offer fine dining to African-Americans?
A: Frazier Cafe Society, established by Evelyn Jones Frazier. The restaurant also became one of the first in Atlanta to serve blacks and whites together under one roof.
Q: What Georgia politician was a Freedom Rider, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington?
A: Georgia 5th District Congressman John Lewis. Speaking of the Freedom Riders, Atlanta's National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a great place to learn about these courageous people.
Q: What former mayor of Atlanta was a top aide to Martin Luther King Jr.?
A: Andrew Young, United Nations Ambassador to President Jimmy Carter
Q: What Atlanta restaurant, still in its original location, was listed in in the "Green Book Guide for Travel & Vacation-the Negro Travelers Guide," which directed African-Americans to safe places to eat and sleep during segregation?
A: Lucy Jackson's Busy Bee Cafe, which is still serving up soul food to Atlantans and visitors today.
4. The Arts in Atlanta
The Woodruff Arts Center houses the High Museum of Art, Alliance Theatre and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. (📷 Katie Snyder, AtlantaPhotos.com)
Q: What tragedy led to the founding of the Memorial Arts Center, now known as Woodruff Arts Center?
A: The 1962 crash of a charter flight at Paris’s Orly airport. The 106 Atlantans who died were members of the Atlanta Art Association, or relatives. Mayor Ivan Allen described them as the backbone of Atlanta’s cultural society, the city’s leading patrons of the arts. Woodruff Arts Center, home to the Alliance Theatre, High Museum of Art and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, is a memorial that honors them. For now, during social distancing, here are virtual resources at Alliance Theatre, virtual tours of art at the High Museum and virtual "concerts" with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Q: Which actor from the movie "Pretty Woman" is an Atlanta native?
A: Julia Roberts was born in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna. You can brush up on Atlanta neighborhoods here.
Q: Atlanta stays on the cutting edge of hip-hop music and has produced many stars of the genre. When did the city's musical legacy begin?
A: Opera arrived in Atlanta in 1866 with a three-night run at the Bell Johnson Opera Hall. The Metropolitan Opera first appeared in the city in 1901.The Music Festival Association brought stars Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso to Atlanta early in the 20th century. In 2009, The New York Times called Atlanta "hip-hop's center of gravity," making way for Atlanta's independent spirit to innovate and create trap music and build Traplanta.
Q: Which of the following are Atlanta-affiliated musical artists?
Gucci Mane, Ciara, Lil Jon, Lil Nas X, OutKast, T.I., TLC, Toni Braxton, Bush Brothers, CeeLo Green, 2 Chainz, Usher, Elton John, Young Jeezy, Jermaine Dupri, Lecrae, Killer Mike, Summer Walker, Indigo Girls, Waka Flocka Flame, Childish Gambino, Ludacris, Migos, Monica, Future.
A: All of them. (Really!)
5. Major League Baseball
The Atlanta Braves play at Truist Park. (📷 Kevin Liles/Getty Images)
Q: What is the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in America?
A: The Atlanta Braves. The Braves began in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings, later known as the Beaneaters. The club moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and became known as the Milwaukee Braves. The team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
Q: What is significant about April 12, 1966?
A: The Atlanta Braves played their first regular season game in Atlanta at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Q: What momentous event occurred April 8, 1974?
A: Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record by sending his 715th homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the fourth during the Braves home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Q: What was the Home Run King carrying on April 4,1997, when he strolled into the ballpark through the Turner Field center-field gate?
A: Hank Aaron was carrying home plate from the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to the brand new and opening that night, Turner Field. The Braves won in a come-from-behind-victory over the Chicago Cubs.
6. Pro Football
Atlantans love their Dirty Birds.
Q: What did Griffin, Ga., schoolteacher Julia Elliott contribute to Atlanta’s NFL team?
A: Responding to a radio contest, asking listeners to name Atlanta’s new NFL team, Julia Elliott suggested the name “Falcons.”
Q: How long before the Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs for the first time?
A: The Falcons played their first regular season game Sept. 11, 1966, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Falcons made the playoffs for the first time in 1978.
7. Pro Basketball
Q: How did the Atlanta Hawks come to be?
A: Atlanta real estate developer Tom Cousins bought the St. Louis Hawks and moved them to Atlanta. The Atlanta Hawks launched their 1968-1969 inaugural season at Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
8. Major League Soccer
Wild and crazy fans are worth the price of admission to an Atlanta United game.
Q: Why do Five Stripes send Atlanta sports fans into a frenzy?
A: The Five Stripes refer to the red and black stripes on the uniforms of Atlanta United FC, Atlanta's Major League Soccer team, which can't stop making and breaking records. Read all about the phenomenon here and here.
The Atlanta Dream plays in the WNBA's Eastern Conference. ((📷 Getty Images)
Q: What Atlanta civil rights leader inspired, at least in part, the name of the Atlanta Women's National Basketball Association team?
A: The team name of the Atlanta Dream was partially inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.
10. National Hockey League
Q: Did Atlanta really once have an ice hockey team?
A: Yes, in fact, there were two. The Atlanta Flames, now the Calgary Flames, joined the league in 1972. The team name was a reference to the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War. The Atlanta Thrashers were founded here in 1999 and now play in Canada as the Winnipeg Jets.
11. Atlanta's Colleges and Universities
Georgia Tech is one of several major universities in Atlanta. (📷 Gene Phillips, AtlantaPhotos.com)
Q: Which Atlanta university owes its origins to Asa G. Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co.?
A: Emory University. In 1914, Candler pledged $1 million toward the university’s endowment. Currently, Emory is enrolling adults older than 55 in a clinical trial of a vaccine designed to prevent coronavirus.
Q: Which Atlanta university started with 47 students and five instructors?
A: Georgia State University, which, in 1913, began as an evening school for Georgia Tech.
Q: Which Atlanta university got its start on April 11, 1881, in the basement of Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church with $100 and 11 students?
A: Spelman College. Within three months, the school had attracted 80 students and, by the following year, 200 women had enrolled. Spelman is part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, which includes Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Clark Atlanta University in addition to Spelman. The consortium is the world’s oldest and largest association of historically Black colleges and universities.
Q: What Atlanta university was founded when legislators, civic leaders and business leaders realized the city needed a technological school?
A: Georgia Tech. As business man Jacob Elsas put it: "We are selling our old raw materials at $5 a ton to states that have trained engineers who fabricate it and sell it back to us at $75 and $100 a ton."
12. About All Those Peachtree Streets
Q: How many streets in Atlanta have Peachtree in their name?
A: More than 70. Learn how this came to be by clicking here.
13. Business in Atlanta
Atlanta architect John Portman created the Westin Peachtree Plaza.
Q: What Atlanta company began in 1886 in the backyard of a druggist?
A: The Coca-Cola Co., whose origins are attributed to pharmacist John Pemberton. You can learn all about it at the World of Coca-Cola. Though the museum is closed now because of COVID-19, you can explore here from the safety of home.
Q: What child, born near Social Circle, Ga., went on to found Atlanta Life Insurance Company?
A: Alonzo Herndon, who became one of the first black millionaires in the country by owning and operating fashionable barber shops that catered to prominent white men.
Q: Who significantly shaped Downtown Atlanta by creating the Atlanta Merchandise Mart, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the Westin Peachtree Plaza and Peachtree Center, among other developments?
A: Architect and developer John Portman
Q: What was the significance of Citizens Trust Bank, which opened its doors in 1921 on Auburn Avenue?
A: Citizens Trust was established to serve Atlanta’s urban black community. Under the guidance of L.D. Milton the bank survived the stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed. During his tenure at Citizens Trust, he continued to teach at Morehouse College.
Q: What Atlanta businesswoman made her fortune off of women's undergarments?
A. Spanx founder Sara Blakely was getting ready for a party when she realized she needed an undergarment to create a sleek look for the pants she wanted to wear. She had pantyhose, but she didn't need the feet, so she cut them off. From that inspirational moment, she went on to solve multiple wardrobe issues for women. In 2012, Forbes named her the world's youngest self-made billionaire.
Q: What Atlanta museum honors an American businesswoman and philanthropist who became one of the first African-American female millionaires in the country?
A: The Madam C.J. Walker Museum, which is housed in the building that was an original Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Shoppe (circa 1950). The museum is located on Hilliard Street NE.
Q: What Atlanta company started out by crop dusting to rid the South of the boll weevil?
A: Delta Air Lines. The airline began passenger service in 1929.
14. 1996 Summer Olympics
Centennial Olympic Park is one lasting legacy of the Atlanta Olympic Games. (📷 Melissa McAlpine)
Q: What was the significance of the landfill in Downtown Atlanta that Atlanta Olympics CEO Billy Payne noticed outside his office window?
A: That landfill became what is now the centerpiece of Downtown Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park.
Q: Who lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta?
A: Muhammad Ali
15. President Jimmy Carter
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library is one of 14 presidential libraries in the country.
Q: What legacy of the Carter Administration can be found in Atlanta?
A: The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization that resolves conflicts, advances democracy and human rights, prevents diseases and improves mental health care around the world. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum houses President Carter's papers and material related to the Carter administration and family.
Q: What is one of the most popular attractions inside the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum?
A. The replica of the Oval Office.
History buffs can plan their Atlanta trip now, and visit when it's safe again. Click here for more Atlanta historical sites and things to do.
- “Atlanta: Triumph of a People,” published by Capricorn Corp., 1982. Authors: Norman Shavin and Bruce Galphin.
- “The Braves Encyclopedia,” published by Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1995. Author: Gary Caruso.
- “Rarest of Diamonds,” published by Longstreet Press, Atlanta, copyright 1997 by Atlanta National League Baseball Club Inc., a Time Warner Co. Author: Gary Caruso.
- “150: Celebrating One Hundred Fifty Years of Atlanta Business,” published 1986 by Atlanta Business Chronicle and Atlanta Historical Society.
- Encyclopedia Britannica
- Atlanta Preservation Center
- "Fearless Innovation: Atlanta's Food Story" by Taria Camerino
Journalist Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and was the editor of the aforementioned "150: Celebrating One Hundred Fifty Years of Atlanta Business."