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Macon’s Black History

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From its rich music heritage to its estimated 6,000 historic structures, fascinating sites and attractions, the distinctive College Hill Corridor, and popular annual events and festivals, there is more to Macon, Georgia, located 84 miles due south from Atlanta, than meets the eye.

African-Americans have played a significant role in the history of Macon since its early founding. And although many people identify the city with two of its most famous native sons—Otis Redding and Little Richard—there were numerous other African-Americans and institutions that helped make the city what it is today.

One of the best places to experience the city’s rich African-American history is at the Tubman Museum, hailed as the largest museum in the Southeast dedicated to educating people about the art, history and culture of African Americans.

Here visitors can explore a wealth of introspective permanent and temporary exhibits and gallery spaces to learn about pioneers like America’s first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker; ingenious escaped slaves William and Ellen Craft; Jefferson Long, the first black man to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1871; and others from Georgia and across the country, plus works from many black artists from Georgia.

For not far from today’s downtown sits the Pleasant Hill Historic District. One of the first black neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and still a primarily African-American neighborhood today, it was home to many free blacks after Emancipation who came here and established their own thriving, self-sustaining community encompassing banks, retail stores, law offices, grocery stores, boutiques, professional offices, medical practices, a hospital, and a school.

Notable personalities born and raised, or who lived here over the years, include Little Richard (the little pink house where he grew up is still here), Civil Rights leader William P. Randall, entertainer Lena Horne, Rev. Pearly Brown-the first black man to perform at the Grand Old Opry, and artist Henry W. Lucas, just to name a few.

An extensive collection of rare African American genealogical, biographical and archival information is the focus at the Washington Memorial Library, while the Ruth Hartley Mosley Memorial Women’s Center is a tribute to its namesake who was a successful businesswoman and philanthropist here in the early 1900s.

A small but nevertheless significant African American historic site in town is Oak Ridge Cemetery, established in 1840. What is unique here is that these final resting places for many slaves and their descendants were purchased by the wealthy Macon families who employed them. Although in somewhat of a state of decay with plans to discover some of the unmarked graves, you can still see headstones with family names like Sheftall, Leonard, Hines and Hutchings, the latter the oldest African-American funeral home in Macon and were Otis Redding lay in state at the time of his death.

Like most African-American neighborhoods in the U.S. today, the church played an important role in the community. In Macon, this is evidenced by several historic structures including First Baptist Church, said to have been established over two decades prior to Emancipation; Greater Turner Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church, Macon’s oldest African-American church; Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church, the oldest black Presbyterian church in Georgia; Steward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his only speech in Macon in 1957; and Beulahland Bible Church, founded in 1942 and still one of the largest African American churches in the Southeast, among others.

Because Macon is so intricately tied to music history, earning it the moniker “The Song and Soul of the South,” it offers several places to enjoy a diverse array of performance art.

African American musical, film, and theatrical performances are the focus at the historic Douglass Theater. Built in 1921, named after the son of a former slave and later black entrepreneur Charles Douglas, and Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was the showcase stop for many black performers from well back in the day to more contemporary times, including native son Otis Redding (who was reportedly discovered here), Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Little Richard, Butterbeans, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Ma Rainey, and a bevy of others.

Outside you’ll find the start of a Walk of Fame which currently includes the likenesses of music industry visionaries Johnny “Guitar” Jenkins, Hamp “King Bee” Swain, James Brown, and of course, Otis Redding.

From Soul to Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, and Jazz, African-American owned and operated Grant’s Lounge, billed as “The Original Home of Southern Rock,” is one of both Macon’s and Georgia’s quintessential music venues.

The Wall of Fame here is a veritable “Who’s Who” of Macon and other legends from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Big Mike and the Booty Poppas, Wet Willie, the Allman Brothers Band, Nat Greeley, the Little River Band, Tony Tyler, Bobby Womack and Peace, David Sanborn, Sam and Dave, and hundreds of others that have played or visited here during the venue’s over 25 year history. Any given night of the week you can find the place bustling with a multigenerational, multicultural group of folks who flock here to listen to great live music as well as reminisce the legends of yesteryear.


This is just the beginning of all that Macon has to offer.

Check out these great things to see, do and eat in and around Macon!

Macon Overview

Rock Candy Tours

The Life and Legacy of Otis Redding

The Big House: The Allman Brothers Band Museum

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