Johns Creek students produce documentary films on historic Black cemetery

Johns Creek high school students have produced four short documentary films that explore the city’s historic Black cemetery

The films produced by Student Leadership Johns Creek and featuring Macedonia African Methodist Church Cemetery will be screened Jan. 27 at Johns Creek High School and Mercer University in Atlanta on Feb. 18.

The project titled, “They Were Here: Preservation and Commemoration of the Macedonia African Methodist Church Cemetery of Johns Creek,” was produced in partnership with Mercer University’s Tift College of Education and the Johns Creek Historical Society through a Georgia Humanities grant in the amount of $2,500, Irene Sanders, executive director of Leadership Johns Creek, said.

The filmmakers from four local high schools shows the link between the Cherokee Nation and Black residents who are buried in the cemetery, Sanders said.

Macedonia is a quiet cemetery located at the top of a hill and only a few yards from busy Medlock Bridge Road. Some buried in the cemetery were born into enslavement. The land was originally owned by George Morgan Waters, whose mother was Cherokee and father was from England, Johns Creek Historical Society co-founder Joan Compton has said. Waters owned at least 100 slaves. There are at least 110 unmarked graves at the cemetery, according to the historical society.

The student films are five to eight minutes long, Sanders said, adding that they filmed interviews with historians, educators and a descendant of the Waters family in September.

“I think even though they’re taught history in school, this project made history come alive,” Sanders said.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The film produced by Chattahoochee High School students features Emily Cobb, of the Atlanta History Center, who discusses the relationship of Cherokee Nation and Black residents.

Johns Creek High School interviewed Madyun Shahid, a descendant of April Waters, who is buried at Macedonia, and highlights the importance of historical research and genealogy.

Northview High School students produced a film featuring Dr. Kenja McCray, a professor of history at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and visiting professor at Georgia Tech, discussing slavery and racial discrimination through the Reconstruction Era.

The film by Northview High School students spotlights preservation by the city of Johns Creek and local organizations. It features Dr. Jennifer Dickey, a history professor at Kennesaw State University and Ashley Shares, a director at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

“Working on such a unique project shows you moments of history you could never imagine that exist in places we now simply drive by,” Shruthi Balachander, a junior at Northview High School said. “It was truly gratifying to be able to carry and tell the stories of those who lived such strenuous lives.”

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