Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery is a walk through Black history

The cemetery contains a who's who of Black history and culture in Atlanta.
The cemetery contains a who's who of Black history and culture in Atlanta.(WGCL)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 7:37 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - All this month we’re celebrating Black History. African Americans played a pivotal role in helping shape metro Atlanta. But when you think of all the historical locations around Atlanta, you probably don’t think of South-View Cemetery.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was buried here in 1968, and he was moved to the King Center in 1970″, says Winifred Watts Hemphill, the President of the South-View Cemetery Association.

The cemetery contains a who’s who of Black history and culture in Atlanta.

Dr. King’s family rests in peace here. More recently, civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis was buried in South-View, and legendary baseball great Hank Aaron rests there as well.

Watts Hemphill says a number of people have visited Aaron’s gravesite, “They would leave bats and balls, just come to honor him and pay respects.”

Watts Hemphill continues the family business of running the cemetery, which was first started in 1886 by six Black Atlanta businessmen.

“One of them was my great grandfather. He was born in Athens as a slave and after emancipation matriculated to Atlanta and ran a grocery store,” she says.

The men wanted a dignified place where Blacks could be buried and more than a century later, 80,000 rest there.

A marble marker is one of the most visited at South-View, it’s the headstone for George “Union” Wilder. Watts Hemphill says, “It has his dates in here, very difficult to see because it was hand-etched. It also says he was murdered during the race riots of 1906.”

Also in South-View’s historic district, former slave and Atlanta entrepreneur Alonzo Herndon and his family.

“Alonzo Herndon was the first back millionaire in Atlanta. He owned the Crystal Palace Barber Shop and several others, catered to white men, gave shaves, baths, and haircuts,” Watts Hemphill says.

You may not recognize the Guest name as much as the music of Gladys Knight and the Pips.

“William Guest is here and his whole family. He was a Pip and his sister was actually one of the original Pips,” Watts Hemphill explains.

Few know that filmmaker Spike Lee has a direct connection to South-View.

“He comes and visits frequently when he’s in Atlanta. Spike Lee’s grandmother is one of the main reasons he came and went to Morehouse,” Watts Hemphill explained.

South-View has a special tour performance coming up on March 26 where actors can been seen portraying notable Atlanteans. South-View is open seven days a week and you can take self-guided tours anytime the cemetery is open.