About 50 Buckhead Heritage Society volunteers arrived at a local cemetery Aug. 8 to honor local history and engage with the racial justice issues sweeping the nation.

The local history nonprofit teamed with the New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church at 3012 Arden Road, a 150-year-old congregation that is working to preserve its site, including a cemetery dating to at least 1889.

A volunteer works on a market at the New Hope AME Church cemetery on Aug. 8. (Special)

“This service project is an opportunity to bring people together to give back to our community,” said Ivan Allen IV, a Buckhead Heritage board member and membership committee chair, in a press release. “We believe there is a pent-up desire within the community to engage in some meaningful way to address the injustices we are reading about that are subtle and embedded in our social fabric.”

“The uniqueness of this church is the collective love that’s shared by all ethnicities that live in the Buckhead community,” said Rev. David F. Richards III, New Hope’s pastor. “Buckhead Heritage members roll up their sleeves and get involved. They bring in forensic experts and cemetery restoration teams to show us how to maintain a historical cemetery. Once we clean up the cemetery, it will be a beautiful place to walk through.”

According to Buckhead Heritage, the church dates to an 1872 bequest by James H. “Whispering” Smith, a White farmer and landowner. He left 2 acres to local African American residents to be used for “church purposes,” according to Buckhead Heritage.

Under a grant funded by the Massey Charitable Trust, Senior Mortuary Archaeologist Dr. Matt Matternes has identified 334 graves in the cemetery. There are believed to be 300 graves without markers.

For more information about Buckhead Heritage, see buckheadheritage.com. For more about New Hope, see NewHopeAMEChurch.org.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.