Atlanta is a relatively young city. It began in 1837, when an almost random dot on the map was named "Terminus" during plans for railroad construction. After the railroads arrived, the renamed Atlanta proved to be a crucial transportation center in the Civil War. Home to the huge Confederacy munitions industry, it was burned by Sherman's Union army in 1864, an act immortalized in Gone With the Wind. Recovery after the war was quick: Atlanta was the archetype of the industrial "New South," championed by "boosters" – newspaper owners, bankers, politicians, and city leaders. Giants who based themselves here included Coca-Cola, source of a string of philanthropic gifts to the city. Black immigration increased its already considerable African-American population and led to the establishment of the thriving community, centered on Auburn Avenue, which was to produce Martin Luther King Jr.
Today's Atlanta is at first glance a typical large American city, but no visitor could fail to notice its progressive feel. The city elected the nation's first black mayor, the late Maynard Jackson, and African-American politicians continue to reach success here. Its hosting of the 1996 Olympics is just the highest profile success in a sustained catalogue of entrepreneurial achievements. Tourists come to Atlanta for its vibrant arts, dining, and nightlife scenes, but must-see tourist attractions include the various sites associated with Dr King to cultural institutions like the High Museum of Art and Atlanta History Center.
The flip side of the fact that there was no great reason to put a city here is that neither are there any obvious geographical factors to prevent Atlanta from growing indefinitely. The population of the entire metropolitan area now exceeds five million. Cut off by roaring freeways, Atlanta's neighbourhoods tend to have distinct identities; lavish Buckhead is only a short drive away from grungier, punky Little Five Points, but the two neighbourhoods have little in common.