In the summer of 2019, Mamie Hillman, Director of the Greene County African American Museum, learned of an African American burial ground on the other side of the wall from the historic Penfield Cemetery, where many of the founders of Mercer University are buried. The cemetery appears to hold hundreds of graves, including marked stones that identify formerly enslaved members of the community and their children.
On this website, we invite descendants of those buried in the cemetery and other community members to connect with lost ancestors. We hope you will share stories and photographs as we work to preserve their memory and to place those memories within a larger narrative of African American history in Georgia.
Through collective memory in the community, through courthouse and online research, we will do all we can to piece their stories together again. They deserve to be honored, celebrated, and remembered by name, those who gave everything so that we could see this day, and the days of freedom yet to come.
Statement from Mamie Hillman:
Cemeteries are important. They are often the only existing memorials of individuals who were the first folks in our communities. I want to bring attention to the graves, acknowledge that those individuals were and are significant even to this day. We may never know what plantation they worked on, but we know now that they did exist.
It is time that we in Greene County celebrate our own, and in so doing, celebrate ourselves – our resilience, our traditions that have gotten us through, and the fact that we are the wildest dreams of those who came before us.
As we learn about our forebears, we will engage the most important question: How is it that the way we live our lives today can honor those who came before us? What might it mean for us to live our freedom in ways they never experienced, and to make sure that those yet to come have it even better than we do? It all starts with knowing where you come from, and the cemetery in Penfield is ready to teach us that truth.