For longtime residents of Lynwood Park, considered the oldest historically Black neighborhood in DeKalb County, the Oct. 13 Brookhaven City Council meeting was a pivotal moment for their community.
The council passed an ordinance recognizing the history of the neighborhood, promising monuments and plaques in that community and supporting events that celebrate its past.
“Lynwood Park is known for its unity, strength and independence even in the era of legal racial segregation,” said Lynwood Park Foundation Chair Kathy Wells at the meeting. “This ordinance speaks clearly to the strong moral values of the original residents of Lynwood Park.”
Black residents settled Lynwood Park in the 1930s. Recognized as DeKalb County’s oldest Black community in the ordinance, it is located north of Windsor Parkway and bordered by Nancy Creek and the Fulton County line. During 1960s desegregation, Lynwood Park students, who are now recognized as “Lynwood Trailblazers,” integrated schools, and the community has been a former home to celebrities, such as comedian George Wallace and Olympic gold medalist Mel Pender.
Councilmember Linley Jones worked with the Lynwood Park Foundation, which works to preserve the community’s history, to help create and pass the ordinance. Jones and residents unsuccessfully tried in 2018 to get a Civil Rights history marker for the Lynwood Park Recreation Center, a former school for Black elementary and high school students, from the Georgia Historical Society.
Jones said in an interview she wants to try again for the state marker, but in the meantime, it was time for the city to recognize the community.
The city will install a historic marker at the Lynwood Park Recreation Center that provides an account of the area and its role in the city’s history. A bronze plaque will also be inside the building with the names of Lynwood Trailblazers, according to the ordinance. Granite monuments with the neighborhood’s establishing date will be installed at its entrance. The monuments will mimic the style of welcome signs that the city has installed on its borders.
The city will support the annual Lynwood Park Community Day by providing resources and promotion, according to the ordinance. It will also host the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Dinner with free admission for former Lynwood schools students and faculty with three free guest tickets. The city will also recognize other Lynwood Park events, such as the 100th anniversary of Little Zion Baptist Church in 2023.
A room in the recreation center will be dedicated to historic Lynwood Park community members and be made freely available for meetings about historic Lynwood Park, according to the ordinance.
“The city of Brookhaven owes a great debt of gratitude to these citizens of Lynwood Park for their contributions to our community despite these difficult conditions,” the ordinance reads.
Barbara Shaw, a Lynwood Trailblazer and 62-year resident, remembers the neighborhood as a friendly and safe place growing up, where residents could call their neighbors for help and not worry about locking their doors at night. Recognizing that history has been particularly important to Shaw as the neighborhood has become more gentrified.
“This is very heartwarming for me because I’ve been waiting for this for years,” Shaw told the council.
Jones and other residents said that gentrification is one of the reasons they pushed for historical markers. Residents shared fond memories with the council of growing up in the tight-knit community, and the change of its culture has made the historic recognition more necessary.
“We’re trying to preserve the history of our ancestors,” Wells said.