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Atlanta, Georgia

Mount Olive Cemetery

Small cemetery is all that remains of Atlanta's first black communities. 

Left of the entrance to what is now Frankie Allen Park lies a small hill where some of Atlanta’s earliest residents are buried. Known as Mt. Olive Cemetery, this small portion of land contains the graves of some of Atlanta’s earliest citizens - anywhere from 45 to more than 100 marked and unmarked graves in a state of extreme decay resting in the span of only 0.22 acres.

Mt. Olive Cemetery is the last remnant of the once thriving community known as Macedonia Park. Founded by freed slaves just after the Civil War, Macedonia Park was one of Atlanta’s first black communities and was home to more than 400 African American residents. Completely self-contained, the community included restaurants, grocery stores, a barber, a blacksmith, and even a few churches, the most popular of which was Mt. Olive Methodist Church.

In the 1940s, Fulton County sought to demolish Macedonia Park - which had become impoverished and overrun with drunks, criminals, and area homeless - in favor of a community park. From 1945 to 1953, the county claimed eminent domain to systematically remove the residents of Macedonia Park and condemn the property.

In 1953 the county established Bagley Park on the area in which Macedonia Park once stood, renaming the area Frankie Allen Park in 1980 after the city’s beloved law enforcement officer and baseball umpire who had died the previous year. And even though the Mt. Olive Methodist Church had been demolished years earlier, the cemetery remained … seemingly unnoticed.

Then, somehow, the church land and subsequently the cemetery were mistakenly sold by the city of Atlanta to a private developer who purchased the land for the amount of back taxes that were never supposed to be applied to it in the first place, given that cemeteries are exempt from property taxes. Exactly how the back taxes were ever allowed to be applied to the cemetery remains a mystery.

The cemetery is now in a state of administrative limbo and the city and the developer seek to establish who, exactly, owns Mt. Olive. Open to the public, the cemetery is littered with trash, alcohol bottles, and Halloween decorations, prompting the developer - who technically owns the land on paper - to seek to remove the graves. This created an uproar in the community who then filed suit against the developer. A number of suits followed until the Supreme Court of Fulton County made a final decision in 2010 to bar the developer from disturbing the site.

As of 2011, various community organizations including the Buckhead Heritage Society, have made strides to clean up and preserve this strange vestige of Atlanta’s early history.