Georgia is bordered to the south by Florida, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and South Carolina, to the west by Alabama, and to the north by Tennessee and North Carolina. The state's northernmost part is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains system. The Piedmont extends through the central part of the state from the foothills of the Blue Ridge to the Fall Line, where the rivers cascade down in elevation to the coastal plain of the state's southern part. Georgia's highest point is Brasstown Bald at 4,784 feet above sea level; the lowest is the Atlantic Ocean. Of the states entirely east of the Mississippi River, Georgia is the largest in land area.
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.
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 leaving the state during the Great Migration. This disfranchisement persisted through the mid-1960s, until federal legislation with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Beginning from the Atlantic Ocean, the state's eastern border with South Carolina runs up the Savannah River, northwest to its origin at the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers. It then continues up the Tugaloo (originally Tugalo) and into the Chattooga River, its most significant tributary. These bounds were decided in the 1797 Treaty of Beaufort, and tested in the U.S. Supreme Court in the two Georgia v. South Carolina cases in 1923 and 1989.
The border then takes a sharp turn around the tip of Rabun County, at latitude 35°N, though from this point it diverges slightly south (due to inaccuracies in the original survey). This northern border was originally the Georgia and North Carolina border all the way to the Mississippi River, until Tennessee was divided from North Carolina, and the Yazoo companies induced the legislature of Georgia to pass an act, approved by the governor in 1795, to sell the greater part of Georgia's territory presently comprising Alabama and Mississippi.
The state's western border runs in a straight line south-southeastward from a point southwest of Chattanooga, to meet the Chattahoochee River near West Point. It continues downriver to the point where it joins the Flint River (the confluence of the two forming Florida's Apalachicola River); the southern border goes almost due east and very slightly south, in a straight line to the St. Mary's River, which then forms the remainder of the boundary back to the ocean.
The water boundaries are still set to be the original thalweg of the rivers. Since then, several have been inundated by lakes created by dams, including the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint point now under Lake Seminole.
Georgia state legislators have claimed that in an 1818 survey, the state's border with Tennessee was erroneously placed one mile (1.6 km) farther south than intended, and they proposed a correction in 2010. The state was then in the midst of a significant drought, and the new border would allow Georgia access to water from the Tennessee River.
Each region has its own distinctive characteristics. For instance, the Ridge and Valley, which lies in the northwest corner of the state, includes limestone, sandstone, shale and other sedimentary rocks, which have yielded construction-grade limestone, barite, ocher, and small amounts of coal.
The state of Georgia has approximately 250 tree species and 58 protected plants. Georgia's native trees include red cedar, a variety of pines, oaks, hollies, cypress, sweetgum, scaly-bark and white hickories and sabal palmetto. East Georgia is in the subtropical coniferous forest biome and conifer species as other broadleaf evergreen flora make up the majority of the southern and coastal regions. Yellow jasmine, and mountain laurel make up just a few of the flowering shrubs in the state.
White-tailed (Virginia) deer are in nearly all counties. The northern mockingbird and brown thrasher are among the 160 bird species that live in the state.
Reptiles and amphibians include the eastern diamondback, copperhead, and cottonmouth, salamanders, frogs, alligators and toads. There are about 79 species of reptile and 63 amphibians known to live in Georgia.
The most popular freshwater game fish are trout, bream, bass, and catfish, all but the last of which are produced in state hatcheries for restocking. Popular saltwater game fish include red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, and tarpon. Porpoises, whales, shrimp, oysters, and blue crabs are found inshore and offshore of the Georgia coast.
The majority of the state is primarily a humid subtropical climate. Hot and humid summers are typical, except at the highest elevations. The entire state, including the North Georgia mountains, receives moderate to heavy precipitation, which varies from 45 inches (1143 mm) in central Georgia to approximately 75 inches (1905 mm) around the northeast part of the state. The degree to which the weather of a certain region of Georgia is subtropical depends on the latitude, its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, and the elevation. The latter factor is felt chiefly in the mountainous areas of the northern part of the state, which are farther away from the ocean and can be 4500 feet (1350 m) above sea level. The USDA Plant hardiness zones for Georgia range from zone 6b (no colder than −5 °F (−21 °C) ) in the Blue Ridge Mountains to zone 8b (no colder than 15 °F (−9 °C) ) along the Atlantic coast and Florida border.
The highest temperature ever recorded is 112 °F (44.4 °C) in Louisville on July 24, 1952, while the lowest is −17 °F (−27.2 °C) in northern Floyd County on January 27, 1940. Georgia is one of the leading states in frequency of tornadoes, though they are rarely stronger than F1. Although tornadoes striking the city are very rare, a F2 nonviolent tornado hit downtown Atlanta on March 14, 2008, causing moderate to severe damage to various buildings. With a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, Georgia is also vulnerable to hurricanes, although direct hurricane strikes were rare during the 20th century. Georgia often is affected by hurricanes that strike the Florida panhandle, weaken over land, and bring strong tropical storm winds and heavy rain to the interior, as well as hurricanes that come close to the Georgia coastline, brushing the coast on their way north.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Georgia was 10,214,860 on July 1, 2015, a 5.44% increase since the 2010 United States Census.
In 2015, Georgia had an estimated population of 10,214,860 which was an increase of 117,517 from the previous year, and an increase of 527,207 since 2010. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 438,939 people (that is 849,414 births minus 410,475 deaths) and an increase from net migration of 606,673 people into the state. Immigration resulted in a net increase of 228,415 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 378,258 people.
As of 2010, the state has the sixth highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. There were 35,000 in 1990; the count more than doubled from January 2000 to January 2009, at 480,000.
There were 743,000 veterans in 2009.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Georgia had a population of 9,687,653. In terms of race and ethnicity, the state was 59.7% White (55.9% Non-Hispanic White Alone), 30.5% Black or African American, 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native, 3.2% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 4.0% from Some Other Race, and 2.1% from Two or More Races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 8.8% of the population.
As of 2011, 58.8% of Georgia's population younger than age 1 were minorities (meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white) compared to other states like California with 75.1%, New York with 55.6%, and Texas with 69.8%.
The largest European ancestry groups are:
In the 1980 census 1,584,303 Georgians claimed English ancestry out of a total state population of 3,994,817, making them 40% of the state, and the largest ethnic group at the time. Today, many of these same people claiming that they are of "American" ancestry are actually of English descent, and some are of Scots-Irish descent; however, their families have lived in the state for so long, in many cases since the colonial period, that they choose to identify simply as having "American" ancestry or do not in fact know their own ancestry. Their ancestry primarily goes back to the original thirteen colonies and for this reason many of them today simply claim "American" ancestry, though they are of predominately English ancestry.
As of 2004, 7.7% of Georgia's population was reported as under 5 years of age, 26.4% under 18, and 9.6% were 65 or older. Also as of 2004, females made up approximately 50.6% of the population and African Americans made up approximately 29.6%.
Historically, about half of Georgia's population was composed of African Americans who, before the Civil War, were almost exclusively enslaved. The Great Migration of hundreds of thousands of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North from 1914–70 reduced the African American population.
Georgia had the second-fastest-growing Asian population growth in the U.S. from 1990 to 2000, more than doubling in size during the ten-year period. In addition, according to census estimates, Georgia ranks third among the states in terms of the percent of the total population that is African American (after Mississippi and Louisiana) and third in numerical Black population after New York and Florida. Georgia was the state with the largest numerical increase in the black population from 2006 to 2007 with 84,000.
Georgia is the state with the third-lowest percentage of older people (65 or older), at 12.8 percent (as of 2015).
The colonial settlement of large numbers of Scottish American, English American and Scotch-Irish Americans in the mountains and piedmont, and coastal settlement by some English Americans and African Americans, have strongly influenced the state's culture in food, language and music. The concentration of Africans imported to coastal areas in the 18th century repeatedly from rice-growing regions of West Africa led to the development of Gullah-Geechee language and culture in the Low Country among African Americans. They share a unique heritage in which African traditions of food, religion and culture were continued more than in some other areas. In the creolization of Southern culture, their foodways became an integral part of all Southern cooking in the Low Country.
As of 2010, 87.35% (7,666,663) of Georgia residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 7.42% (651,583) spoke Spanish, 0.51% (44,702) Korean, 0.44% (38,244) Vietnamese, 0.42% (36,679) French, 0.38% (33,009) Chinese (which includes Mandarin), and German, which was spoken as a main language by 0.29% (23,351) of the population over the age of five. In total, 12.65% (1,109,888) of Georgia's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.