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Sacred Spaces: Atlanta
The Temple - Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)
"Progress" literally railroaded into the city around 1840, and Atlanta would soon become the name of this terminus, the feminine form of the burgeoning Western & Atlantic Railroad. In its wake the water disappeared underground along with the city's original inhabitants. When Cherokee and Creek Indians were violently removed from this "Enchanted Land," their religion was also taken away. An Emory University bookstore assistant conveyed to us that "in America, people don't like to use the term 'Ethnic Cleansing' -- but that is exactly what happened in this area in the 19th century." This is shocking information to absorb.
As the city developed, neighborhoods were segregated under stifling Jim Crow laws. This chasm was bridged by the efforts of activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. "Sweet Auburn" was then thriving, and neighborhood churches served as de facto community meeting spaces, within the landscape of segregation. Once freed from their societal bonds, connections binding fellow outsiders began to unravel. Formerly thriving theatres and performance venues are now shuttered. We want to question: how does a city preserve a site of conscience like this, sacralized to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., who decides how it happens, and at what expense? We were underwhelmed and believe there could be a much better active solution honoring King's memory.
Cannon Chapel @Emory University ( by architect Paul Rudolph) (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)
The spaces we chose to feature in this selection are those where we found a willingness to discuss the transformation of this American city. Each offers a space of healing, cultivating resources for residents and visitors alike.
Download the Atlanta Sacred Spaces Guide
Download the Atlanta guide here (PDF).
Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in Atlanta. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call or leave us a comment below.
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Published October 11, 2010