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Foundation working to restore African American portion of historic cemetery

Laid to rest in one of Atlanta's historic cemeteries are many historical figures, both known and unknown. The Historic Oakland Foundation is looking for help to restore the African American section of the city's storied cemetery.
(photo by Becky Kellogg, 11Alive News)

The historic cemetery where former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson is laid to rest is asking for the community's help.

The Historic Oakland Foundation is asking for more than $400,000 to help restore the African-American section of the cemetery. It's a 3.5-acre section where several thousand African-Americans were buried prior to desegregation.

Laid to rest here, former slaves, freed African-Americans -- so much of Atlanta's history, tucked away in Oakland Cemetery's African American burial ground.

(photo by Becky Kellogg, 11Alive News)

Laura Henninghausen, the development director, is constantly uncovering history.

"Jacob (McKinley) was born into slavery in 1830 in Newnan, Georgia. But post-Civil War, became one of the most wealthiest African Americans in Atlanta," Henninghausen said.

She says that in more than 100 years, the African American section, created during segregation, has not received much attention -- until now.

Fundraising efforts are allowing them to fix headstones, monuments, walls and walkways.

"This is one of the areas that we've been restoring," she said.

"We're moving it about six inches farther away from the tree to give the tree a little more room to grow," a cemetery worker said.

But the cost to fix it all up? About $430,000.

PHOTOS | Atlanta's Historic Oakland Cemetery

The Historic Oakland Foundation says the preservation is needed desperately in this section, especially in a city like Atlanta, where African-Americans pioneered the Civil Rights movement.

"Our first African American burial here was a slave," Henninghausen said. "And we go all the way up to Maynard Jackson."

Jackson, Atlanta's first African=American mayor, has a grand dedication -- easily noticeable.

But there are about 900 unmarked African American graves with so much history, unknown -- Atlanta's forgotten past.

"We are uncovering stories about people that are still well-known today and people that were well known in their time," she said.

History left to be restored; preserved. As they uncover the founders of Atlanta.

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