Monday, March 28, 2016

Atlanta's Historic Oakland Cemetery

Monday, March 28, 2016
View of Bell Tower Ridge
Loretta reports:

The first time I visited, years ago, all I knew about Atlanta’s oldest public cemetery was, Margaret Mitchell was buried there. Then I knew nothing about the rural cemetery movement, only that this was a beautiful place.

On my most recent trip to Atlanta, I had the privilege of touring Oakland Cemetery with members of the Historic Oakland Foundation, as they planned their annual Halloween tour. My lips are sealed about the tour, but I promise a fascinating experience for those who join it next October.

Still, Oakland is well worth a visit, no matter what.* In spring it’s simply glorious, with its flowering trees and shrubs and joyous birdsong. Though not originally planned as a rural cemetery, it is, like others I’ve visited, an oasis amid the city’s hubbub. It’s a park—a Certified Wildlife Habitat, in fact. This one, though, is filled with stories.

It’s the End of the Trail for Benjamin F. Perry, Jr. who designed the Buffalo Head nickel. Golfer Bobby Jones rests here, too. So does Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, whose grave’s placement “would symbolize the final breaking of the color line within Oakland’s Original Six Acres.”

Slave Square
Yes, the cemetery was segregated, and yes, the Confederacy looms large here—the Civil War and segregation are part of US. history. But here, too, in the Rawson mausoleum, are buried Julian** and Julia Harris, who owned the Columbus Enquirer-Sun, a paper that won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for “the service which it rendered in its brave and energetic fight against the Ku Klux Klan; against the enactment of a law barring the teaching of evolution; against dishonest and incompetent public officials and for justice to the Negro and against lynching.”

Along with politics and war are human stories, many told briefly but poignantly in epitaphs, as well as art, from grand monuments and mausoleums with beautiful stained glass to small, delicately carved stone markers.

All quotations are from Ren and Helen Davis’s Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide, a handsomely illustrated book offering exactly what the title promises: a detailed history as well as guide to the cemetery’s several “neighborhoods” (with maps), tales of those buried therein as well as that of the cemetery’s restoration.

*There are guided walking tours year round as well as special tours.
**Son of Joel Chandler Harris.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a fascinating place. One I'll have to plan on visiting now that I live near Atlanta.

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