This walking tour was created to help share the rich history of Marietta’s Black community. The tour will take participants on a journey through time, from the founding of Marietta through the Civil Rights Movement. Some historic structures still remain, while other sites have been altered or erased over time. We hope the information presented here will help provide participants with a better understanding of the events, people, and places from Marietta’s past that formed our present. This walking tour is approximately 1.5 miles long and should take about one hour to complete.
William Root House - 80 N Marietta Parkway (Directions)
This c. 1845 house was constructed for Hannah and William Root, early Marietta settlers. The house has been relocated and restored to its 1850s appearance for use as a museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Behind the main house are three individual structures: a cookhouse, smokehouse, and a log cabin. The cabin represents the living quarters of the enslaved people who lived on the property. According to the 1860 slave schedule (census), about 45% of Marietta’s population was enslaved.
The 1860 slave schedule also shows that the Root family owned four individuals: two men and two women. The two enslaved men were listed as 73 and 55 years of age. We believe the 55-year-old was a man named Lall Burge who acted as the family's butler. The two females were 60 and 35 years old in 1860. We believe that the 35-year-old woman was a domestic slave named Elsay Blake.
We can only speculate about what happened to the enslaved people who labored at the Root House when the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865. We believe Elsay may have remained with the Root family. It was not uncommon for emancipated slaves to become employees of their former masters after emancipation. Lall likely did not stay with the Roots; a record of Lall Burge registering to vote was filed in Bartow County on July 15, 1867.
St. James Episcopal Church – 161 Church Street (Directions)
St. James Church was founded in 1842. Among the founders was William Root, whose house you have just visited. The church’s original structure was wood, and church records contain the contracts for building, painting, and plastering the church building. Although slave labor is not discussed as part of the building process, it was probably an important component. The Rev. Thomas F. Scott reported to the vestry in 1846 that a building on church grounds was completed by the efforts “of my own labor and that of my Servants.”
Worship services were segregated. The main floor contained enclosed pews that could be rented by white members. The second story gallery contained benches for the Black congregants. Enslaved people were able to attend church services and to partake in the sacraments of the church. Church records report that the first couple married at St. James, on January 10, 1844, was “Eli, a colored man belonging to William T. Winn, and Louise, a colored woman belonging to William B. Taylor.” They were married by the rector, Thomas F. Scott. The next year “George, a colored man belonging to M. Kolb, Esq., and Lucy, a colored woman belonging to Mrs. Whedbee[?]” were married. In fact, six of the first thirteen couples married at St. James were Black.
First Presbyterian Church - 189 Church Street (Directions)
Marietta’s First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1835. The Greek Revival sanctuary you see today was constructed in 1854. At the time it was built, people of color (free or enslaved) were forbidden to assemble and likely attended the churches of their owners. In 1860, the Presbyterian Church had a total membership of 130. Most churches, including this one, were segregated and a portion of its large balcony would have been reserved for the Black congregants. After the Civil War, many Black congregations emerged and established their own meeting places for worship. While the majority of traditional southern Black churches were founded during the late 1880s, Marietta has one of the earliest Black congregations and churches in the state of Georgia, which you will see next on your tour.
Old Zion Church - Corner of Lemon and Haynes Streets (Directions)
The Old Zion Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a profound history. Zion Baptist Church was established by former slaves who previously worshipped at Marietta’s First Baptist Church. By the end of the Civil War, the 88 Black members were prepared to break away from the First Baptist Church and create a church of their own.
On April 8, 1866, almost exactly a year after the Civil War ended, Zion Baptist Church was established with Brother Ephraim B. Rucker as Pastor. A wood-frame structure on the site was replaced in 1888 by the brick structure you see today. The church played a major role in the community, and served as a place for congregants to meet for worship and to discuss social and political issues that affected their community. This historic landmark is now operated as a museum.
Lemon Street Schools - 350 Lemon Street (Directions)
Marietta’s Black community worked together to establish the Lemon Street Elementary School in 1894. Marietta Industrial High School was completed in 1929 and was the city’s first Black high school. The school was later renamed Lemon Street High School. Ursula Maxwell Jenkins was among the first educators at the school. Jenkins was a graduate of Spelman College and was an advocate for the advancement of Black students in Marietta.
Ten years after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education
ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, Marietta High School still had no Black students. That changed when a group of Marietta citizens sent a letter to Marietta Schools Superintendent Henry Kemp asking him to allow Daphne Delk and Treville Grady to enroll in classes at Marietta High School. The school board accepted their applications and Delk and Grady became the first Black students to attend Marietta High School on August 27, 1964. Delk recalled thinking of her white classmates, "I’ve got to get that message to them that I’m not so much wanting to be them or be a part of them as much as I want to be able to compete with them in a world that may not give me the same opportunities as they have.”
Following integration, the Marietta Board of Education closed the Lemon Street High School and Lemon Street Grammar School. The c. 1930 Lemon Street High School building was demolished in 1967. The c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School building was used for storage by the Board of Education. Rehabilitation of the Lemon Street Grammar School was completed in 2021, returning the building to classroom use. Outside, interpretive panels have been installed to share the history of the community.
Marietta City Hall - 205 Lawrence Street (Directions)
Hugh Grogan Jr. (1937-2009) graduated from Lemon Street High School in 1955, and studied at Morehouse College in Atlanta and St. John’s University in New York. He returned to Marietta in 1970 and wanted to make a change in the community. In 1973 Grogan filed a redistricting complaint with the U.S. District Court against the City of Marietta, stating that the city’s ward map had been changed in order to weaken Black votes. Grogan won the case in 1975, and a new ward map was approved in 1976, making ward 5 approximately 50% Black. Grogan was elected to represent Ward 5 as the city’s first Black council member in 1977. Grogan served as Councilman for Ward 5 from 1978 until 1981. During his years in Marietta he played an active role in fighting for Civil Rights and served as president of the Marietta chapter of the NAACP. The Lawrence Street Recreation Center at 510 Lawrence Street was renamed the Hugh L. Grogan Jr. Community Center in his honor in January 2020.
AME Turner Chapel - 20 Waddell St NE (Directions)
Churches were often the center of community life in the south. The office building you are standing near was once the site of the original Turner Chapel AME Church, believed to be the second-oldest African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregation in Georgia. The building that once stood on this site was constructed in 1834 for the First Presbyterian Church of Marietta. That church was purchased by a group of freedmen and enslaved people in 1854 and renamed "Trinity Church for Negroes and Indians." It was operated under the direction of the First Methodist Church. In 1865, Reverend Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) came to Georgia and reorganized the congregation under the AME church, as he would do for many Black churches throughout the south. Turner had been appointed as the first Black chaplain in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War and later to the Freedmen’s Bureau in Georgia. Turner was then elected to the state legislature in 1868. He became the twelfth bishop of the AME church in 1880. The church was named in his honor in 1891. The property was purchased by the City of Marietta in 1971. A new church building was constructed on North Marietta Parkway in the early 2000s.
Lawrence Street - East Park Square to Waddell Street (Directions)
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1885 to 1905 show many Black-owned businesses in this area. During the 1880s, brothers Andrew and Frank Rogers became some of the first Black entrepreneurs to establish a presence in the business district. Andrew was a prominent businessman and owned a barbershop, ice cream parlor, and dance hall. His brother, Frank, owned a grocery store and was involved in several real estate transactions which provided space for Black residents and business owners.
Other Black-owned businesses in the area included Dr. Robert Canty’s Pharmacy, Hanley Company Funeral Parlor, Rudy Haley’s Beauty and Cosmetic Shop, and many more. Augusta Sylvester “Shine” Fowler’s General Merchandise Store was a fixture in the community, and Mr. Fowler (1899-1952) was known by many in the Black community as the “Mayor of Lawrence Street.”
Other Notable Sites
Elizabeth Porter Park (Directions)
Elizabeth Porter Park was completed in 2018. Located at the intersection of Allgood Road and North Marietta Parkway, it features a walk/run track, spray pad, and pavilion. A great recreational amenity, the park was also designed to ensure the preservation of local history through the use of public art. Most prominently, a symbolically rich 130-foot mural depicts activities relevant to the site and surrounding neighborhood over time. Secondly, a statue of Elizabeth Porter, the park's namesake and former recreation center director, was incorporated into the park entrance. The statue design shows Mrs. Porter beside two children representing those she worked with during her 22 years as director.
Marietta Slave Lot (Directions)
A number of individuals are buried in a slave lot located in the Marietta City Cemetery. Though nearly all of the graves are unmarked, four have been identified. Their names were Clarissa, Hannah, Nancy, and Peggy. Marietta’s Slave Lot is one of the only known slave burial grounds located within a city cemetery in Georgia.