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Free Tours of Oakland’s Historic African American Burials Grounds this February

Historic Oakland Foundation is excited to once again offer free tours of Oakland’s historic African American Burial Grounds this February.

From the inception of Atlanta’s municipal cemetery in 1850, the burial grounds for enslaved and free African  Americans were, by custom and by law, separate from the other sections of the cemetery. In 1852, soon after Oakland was established, the Atlanta City Council ruled that the enslaved were to be buried on the eastern extremity of the property, apart from the public burial grounds, and this area became known as Slave Square. As the cemetery expanded over the years, the eastern boundary line moved further east and consequently, the graves of many African Americans were exhumed and moved, some of them twice, to where they now lie in an area adjacent to Paupers Grounds.

This three-and-a-half acre African American Burial Grounds section is partially enclosed by Circle Drive. The paths between the tombstones were not paved with cement or bricks, but lined with brick and filled with chert, cinders, and limestone screenings. There is one mausoleum located in this section, belonging to Antoine Graves, a realtor and educator. The graves of other prominent African Americans in this section include those of Bishop Wesley John Gaines, who founded Morris Brown College; Rev. Frank Quarles, the founder of the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (a precursor to Spelman College); and Carrie Steele Logan, who founded the first orphanage for African Americans in Atlanta.

Recent visitors will have noticed significant improvements to both the hardscape and landscape of the historic African American Burial Grounds. Blooms throughout the year accent cleaned and repaired headstones and walls, and large Magnolias shade benches that invite the public to linger. These improvements are the result of a five-year, $600,000 restoration of this section which was completed in 2022. Support for this project was made possible by the generous support of thousands of donors since 2016.

We invite you to learn more about the African American Burial Grounds and its residents on one of eight free guided tours this February.  Space is limited, and these tours will fill up quickly. Reserve your spot here.

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