Greenville (; locally ) is the seat of Greenville County in upstate South Carolina, United States. The city's mayor is Knox White, who has served as the mayor of Greenville since December 1995. With a population of 61,397 as of 2013, it is the sixth-largest municipality in the state. While having a small city population, its urban population was 400,492 as of 2010, making it the third-largest urban area in South Carolina as well as the fastest growing. Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA had a population of 850,965 in 2013, making it the largest in South Carolina.
Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson Combined Statistical Area. According to GSA Business Market Facts, the CSA had a population of 1,438,550 as of 2013, putting it in the position of largest in the state. The CSA, a 10-county region of northwestern South Carolina, is known as "The Upstate". Greenville is located approximately halfway between Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina along Interstate 85, and its metropolitan area also includes Interstates 185 and 385.
Greenville has gained recognition in various national publications such as CNN Money, which ranked Greenville as one of the "Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S." Bloomberg named Greenville the 3rd Strongest Job Market, 2010; and Forbes named Greenville the 13th Best City for Young Professionals. Additionally, the state of South Carolina has been ranked within the top 10 fastest-growing states and economies by the U.S. Commerce Department.
The colony of South Carolina was founded in 1663 by King Charles II of England, who divided the land and gave it to eight nobles. After mismanagement of the colony, the area was reclaimed by the English Crown. The Crown made this area part of the Cherokee Nation's protected grounds after the British defeated the French in the Seven Years' War and made the Treaty of 1763.
No White man was allowed to enter, though some families already had settled just within the boundary, and White traders regularly crossed the area. The first White man to settle permanently in the area was Richard Pearis; he married a Cherokee woman and was given several tracts of land by the tribe. The City of Greenville and Paris Mountain (named after Pearis), are on part of that land. During the American Revolution, the Cherokee (and Pearis) sided with the British. After a campaign in 1776, the Cherokee agreed to the Treaty of DeWitt's Corner, ceding territory to South Carolinia that includes present-day Greenville County.
Greenville was originally called Pleasantburg before an 1831 name change. Greenville County was created in 1786 from Spartanburg District (now Spartanburg County), but was called Greenville District from 1800 until 1868. Greenville may have been named for American Revolutionary General Nathanael Greene, or perhaps for an early resident, Isaac Green. Greenville is the mother district to Pendleton (now Anderson County), Pickens (now Pickens County) and Oconee districts (now Oconee County).
In February 1869, Greenville's Town Charter was amended by the S. C. General Assembly establishing Greenville, the town, as a City. In the late 19th century, textile mills were founded here, providing new employment to area whites, who had earlier been subsistence farmers.
In 1917, when Greenville was known as the "Textile Center of the World," Old Textile Hall was designed by the J. E. Sirrine Company as the first exposition facility in the Southeast for textile products and machinery. Textile Hall also served as a civic auditorium. The building was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It was demolished in 1992.
During World War I, Greenville served as a training camp center for Army recruits. Donaldson Air Force Base was built here during World War II, which was very important to the economy of the City of Greenville. Donaldson served as a military base until the early 1960s, when it was returned to the City of Greenville. The former air base has been developed into a business park. Its military-style barracks have been adapted for use by businesses.
In 1876 Democrats had regained power in the state legislature, and Reconstruction officially ended the next year. They passed laws imposing racial segregation and Jim Crow. In 1895 they passed a new constitution that effectively disfranchised blacks and excluded them from politics. This status was maintained until after the passage of federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965.
Until the early 1960s, blacks in the area were subject to segregationist restrictions; for example, they were limited to the back of city buses, were not permitted to stay in hotels or motels for whites, had to sit in the balcony of movie theaters, and were not permitted to use the public library. Jesse Jackson, working through the NAACP, was an activist who organized a sit-in at Greenville's F.W. Woolworth "five and dime" store, and quickly emerged as a civil rights leader. On August 9, 1960, a sit-in at the S. H. Kress store, seeking service, eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Peterson v. Greenville (1963). It ruled that local segregation ordinances violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.