In 1936, Techwood Homes became the first-ever public housing project in the Nation. It was located northwest of Downtown, between the Coca-Cola headquarters and Georgia Tech’s campus. Its construction replaced a de facto integrated low-income neighborhood known as Tanyard Creek. At the time of its opening, Techwood Homes was established as a “whites only” complex. It would remain this way until white flight infringed on the city after integration was brought on by the civil rights movement. Over the years, federal funding was not properly allocated toward housing projects such as Techwood. As a result, the neighborhood became a blight to the city with failed revitalizations, high crime, and high poverty rates. In 1990, it was announced that the Summer Olympics would be hosted in Atlanta, and thus began the revitalization of poor neighborhoods such as Techwood Homes. Sixty years after its creation, Techwood Homes would be demolished and replaced by a mixed-income housing project called Centennial Place which still stands today. The initial development and then redevelopment of Techwood Homes are both terribly similar as both times business and political leaders sought to replace a blighted neighborhood and, in the process, ended up disproportionately harming some of the city’s most vulnerable communities.
Oakland Cemetery is one of my favorite places near Downtown because even though it is graveyard, I also think it is one of Atlanta’s best public parks. There have been many times when I would get coffee across the street at Java Cats Cafe and then take a stroll in the cemetery with some friends. The cemetery is very scenic with Victorian styled gardens, statues, and of course the many ancient oak and magnolia trees that distinctly shape the overall aesthetic of the place. It definitely sticks out, as it is the oldest cemetery in the city and a reminder of antebellum Atlanta.
Oakland Cemetery is full of history as it was founded in 1850 and where many famous names are buried. If you take a walk through the cemetery you might notice tombstones of household Atlanta names including Ivan Allen Jr., Maynard Jackson, or Margaret Mitchell. However, the Civil War plays a major role in the shaping of Oakland Cemetery, as it is the burial site of many confederate soldiers. Due to this, there have been some instances of vandalism within the space, including the Lion statue which marked unnamed confederate soldiers. Today, the statue has been removed along with a statement released on how the cemetery plans to approach the history of Atlanta in both an equitable and ethical way.
Overall, I think the Oakland Cemetery is a great representation of Atlanta’s more grim past along with the progress the city has made since the cemetery was first established. It really is profound to think about how Maynard Jackson, the first Black mayor of Atlanta, and Hoke Smith, who actively tried to disenfranchise Black voters in the early 20th century, are buried in the same place. It is a reminder of both the racism and segregation once held within city along with the city’s progressions.