Metro Atlanta high school students working to restore historic slave cemetery

Metro Atlanta high school students working to restore historic slave cemetery

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A group of metro Atlanta high schools students are working to restore a long-forgotten Black cemetery.

The historic Macedonia Cemetery in Johns Creek dates back to the 1800s and is the final resting place for former slaves.

The cemetery is tucked away in some woods along Medlock Bridge Road, and many people don’t even know it is there. The headstones are in need of repair and leaves cover many of the plots. The cemetery has been on the property since the 1890s and possibly earlier.

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Kirk Canaday of the Johns Creek Historical Society said that most of the people laid to rest there were former slaves and their descendants.

“People die twice,” Canaday said. “Once when they die, and the second time when they’re forgotten.”

Canady said the forgotten graves could reveal the history of the area.

“Not so much the history of the places, but the history of the people,” Canaday said. “And these people lived and worked here and made contributions here. It’s important that we don’t forget that.”

A group of students who are members of the nonprofit group Student Leadership Johns Creek are trying to change that.

Thirteen students from two different high schools. Centennial and Northview, are working on the project. They’ve been clearing away brush and are raising money to restore or replace dozens of headstones. They are also trying to raise money to fund a scientific search for more gravesites and convert the two-acre site into a memorial garden.

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Junior Shres Talah said the first time she saw the overgrown cemetery, she was crushed.

“I think it’s really disrespectful to them, and I find it upsetting because it’s part of our history,” Talah said.

Sophomore Carmella Dunn agrees, but said the project gives her hope.

“I think it’s sad about how bad it’s been treated over the years, but I also get a sense of hope with what we’re doing to make this a place where people can come and remember the history of Johns Creek,” Dunn said.

The city is working to acquire the land. When that is done, the pine trees will be removed because falling limbs damage the headstones.

“We’re not properly honoring their deaths or honoring their lives,” Tajah said. “It’s really important as a community to restore this.”

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