Historic, African American cemetery in Atlanta added to ‘Places in Peril’ list

Georgia’s new top 10 list of “Places in Peril” includes two sites in metro Atlanta. One is a long-forgotten building in the heart of downtown Atlanta and another a long-neglected, historic African American cemetery.

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach reported live from the Piney Grove Cemetery on Friday for Channel 2 Action News at Noon.

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The cemetery is hard to get to and hard to see once you do. There’s no signs, just a long, grassy path behind patios off Lenox Road near Georgia 400 and tucked between condo developments.

“This is the only way in?” Gehlbach asked members of the Friends of Piney Grove Cemetery.

“This is the only way in,” Rhonda Dillard-Jackson said.

With more than 300 gravesites in this historic, African-American cemetery, only 50 or so are marked with a headstone or simple rock. Some date to the mid-1800s, pre-Civil War.

Dillard-Jackson and Audrey Collins-Lawrence’s grandparents, baby brother, and great-grandmother are buried there.

“We have family here at the top of the hill…top of the cemetery,” Dillard-Jackson said.

“And you can’t get there?” Gehlbach asked.

“No,” Dillard-Jackson answered.

After a number of clean-ups over the years, it’s been an ongoing battle to maintain the vegetation.

“And it starts to rain and everything just grows back…in a matter of months,” Dillard-Jackson said.


The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual Places in Peril list last month and put the cemetery on its 2024 list.

“Focusing on resources that are historically significant that are in danger in some fashion,” said Georgia Trust president and CEO Wright Mitchell. “Through neglect, lack of maintenance, impending possible demolition.”

All the sites on the list have a chance of being saved and includes the Atlanta Constitution building, which was built in the 1940s and is a rare example of art modern architecture. The building was home to the newspaper, then Georgia Power before it was abandoned and sat empty for the last 50 years.

Mitchell said the hope is the landmark building will be redeveloped and serve as the heart of Atlanta revitalization.

“The Constitution building is kind of emblematic of some of the issues going on down there and that’s why we chose it,” he said.

For Piney Grove, making the list means more attention and more resources. Descendants want the cemetery treated with dignity and make sure the history is not erased.

“Yes, we have some hope,” Dillard-Jackson said.


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