I recently visited the Flat Rock Archives with my husband and some friends. I had read about the archives in the Atlanta newspapers and wanted to see and document with my photos this historic African-American town in DeKalb County, on the eastern edge of Atlanta.
Flat Rock was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves who had worked the cotton fields of nearby plantations. The people of Flat Rock endured racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. Many young people moved north during the Great Migration, or left when gains of the Civil Rights Movement opened up opportunities for them in the larger society.
The archives are housed in the former home of Rev. T.A. Bryant, Sr., built by him in 1917, and include photos and artifacts from the Jim Crow era. The grounds of the archives house an old barn with a fascinating collection of old bottles, a shed, and farm equipment.
A short distance from the archives, hidden in the woods, is the Flat Rock Cemetery, with graves dating from the time of slavery, many unmarked or with barely legible names scratched roughly into the headstone, along with graves of more recent generations. It is a solemn and moving site.
The final stop on our visit was the historic Lyons Farm, perhaps the oldest farmstead in DeKalb County. Many of the freedmen who founded Flat Rock had toiled on the Lyons plantation. Today the farm is owned by DeKalb County and there are plans to restore it as a public museum. Only the farmhouse and an old barn remain. The farmhouse is lovely, even in its current state of decay: whitewashed walls, red-painted tin roof, green lawn and trees.
Taking these photographs and sharing them has allowed me to use my work to be part of something larger than myself, to help tell the story of African-American history in DeKalb County. I am grateful to the Flat Rock Archives and I hope these photos will inspire others to explore African-American history and our shared history, and to act on that knowledge.
This photo-essay has appeared as a blog on the Flat Rock Archives website, http://www.flatrockarchives.com/blog/