After the founding of the city in 1823, several black communities developed, one being Pleasant Hill. Developed beginning in the 1870’s up until its plateau in the 1930’s, the community of Pleasant Hill was where Macon’s emerging black professional class built small but stately homes. This community consisted of many residents, from all economic backgrounds; doctors, lawyers, educators, business owners and “More historic iconic African American leaders per square foot than anywhere is in the country” according to historian Dr. Thomas Duval.
Some of those iconic African American leaders from the Pleasant Hill community that went on to accomplish greatness:
William Sanders Scarborough went from slavery in Macon to become the president of Wilberforce College. Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically black university located in Wilberforce, Ohio. and is the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans.
U.S. Rep. Jefferson Franklin Long, the second African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to become the first black Member to speak on the House Floor. Long was the only African American to represent Georgia until Andrew Young was elected in 1972.
Lucy Craft Laney is Georgia’s most famous female African American educator and founded the Haines Institute for African American children in Augusta, Georgia in 1883. Laney, along with the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were the first African Americans to have their portraits hung in the Georgia state capitol.
John Oliver Killens was an American fiction writer and co-founder of the Harlem Writers Guild. Killens was an important figure in the Black Arts Movement as well as an African-American civil rights activist. Two of Killens’ politically charged novels, And Then We Heard the Thunder and The Cotillion and One Good Bull Is Half the Herd, earned two Pulitzer Prize nominations.
Born the son of a former slave, Charles Douglass was Macon’s first African American millionaire. Douglass being a businessman, saw opportunity in serving the black population of Macon and built a theatre in 1921. His theatre, the Douglass Theatre, played host to many great musicians such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Cab Calloway. It was also at the Douglass that Otis Redding was discovered.
Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis lunged atop an enemy grenade at the expense of his own life on Sept. 6, 1967 and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War a year-and-a-half later after his death. A 14 foot monument located in Linwood Cemetery overlooks Interstate 75, and serves as a humbling reminder of the sacrifices made by our military.
Some of the historically iconic African American leaders mentioned above are buried right in Pleasant Hill's Linwood cemetery.
The Pleasant Hill district continued to thrive as commercialism in downtown Macon grew. However, Pleasant Hill's growth was limited only to the confines of their community. Because segregation laws were strengthened or new ones were enacted to maintain or require segregation and discrimination in Macon, residents of Pleasant Hill were barred from participating in Macon's early progress.
1941 Map of Macon Marking Segregated Facilities
By the middle of the 20th century, the nation continued to embrace the deep south's philosophy of segregation. Through protests and demonstrations, the civil rights movement of the 1950's and '60s broke the pattern of segregation by “race” in the South, and attained the most significant advance in equal-rights legislation for African Americans since the Reconstruction period.
Aerial shot of Pleasant Hill 1965
But, Macon in the 1960’s, was facing another divide. While the Civil Rights movement brought integration for African Americans in Macon, the construction of Interstate 75 brought in an irreverent dividing line within a cemetery and community of African Americans who lived in Pleasant Hill. Streets, playgrounds, homes and the final resting place for many of Pleasant Hill and Macon's prominent African American citizens and veterans were slated to be wiped away.
A portion of the Pleasant Hill community along with portions of Linwood cemetery were removed to make way for I-75 over fifty years ago. Today, elder Pleasant Hill residents can still remember how some remains in Linwood Cemetery were of little importance to the DOT. The deceased, along with their grave sites were just bulldozed over, picked up and thrown in a dump truck and disposed of elsewhere without any regard.
Pleasant Hill Before and After Interstate Construction
After the interstate construction severed Pleasant Hill, many families began to leave, moving away from Pleasant Hill in the late 70's. Neighborhood pride was replaced with neighborhood crime and Pleasant Hill along with Linwood Cemetery became a lawless area well-known for drug use and violence.
These improvements include a new park, landscaping and streetscaping improvements
posted 09/14/2017 in