Our Town: Atlanta Hobby turned into historical tours company


For details about Black Mecca of the South tour, email blackmeccatours@yahoo.com or call 678-663-0831.

It never failed: Every time Nasir Muhammad had company come into town, they wanted him to show off Atlanta’s tourist sites. After years of leading friends and family around Auburn Avenue, the King Center and the Hammonds House, he knew a good bit about the city’s top African-American attractions.

But Muhammad, who earned a degree in African-American studies from Florida A&M University, has always been more interested in telling the stories behind the buildings than just showing off the architecture and monuments.

“My love of history started with my great-grandmother who couldn’t read or write, so she had me read to her,” said Muhammad, who has lived in the area for 12 years. “My grandmother also developed vision problems, so I read to her, too - all sorts of things from newspapers and magazines. I read so much, I knew a lot of history. And I realized that Georgia, especially Atlanta, does a poor job of telling and presenting its history - be it white or black.”

Though he had a job as an admissions counselor for a private college, Muhammad spent his spare time doing more than just leading tours. He began giving presentations and talks about what he sees as Atlanta’s little-know black history. Five years ago, he made his hobby a full-time job and launched Black Mecca of the South Tours, 90-minute treks through whatever part of town his listeners want to learn more about.

“I’m a hands-on presenter,” he said. “I love to go into character to tell the stories not just of famous black Americans who lived here, but of those most people know little about.”

Muhammad surprises visitors with the story of how the body of Martin Luther King, Jr. was moved in the night from South View Cemetery to a new tomb (and its current location) on Auburn Avenue. Another favorite tale is the life of David T. Howard, for whom an Atlanta high school was named. (It closed in 1976.)

“Most of the graduates from that school don’t know who he was - a black man who was an undertaker and owned property in 1902,” said Muhammad. “Most people are blown away when I tell them he owned a farm in Buckhead with two lakes where he’d bring children for hayrides.”

Muhammad’s tours also point out that the history of the African-American community in Atlanta is not just limited to Auburn Avenue. He tailors his tours to whatever his visitors want to learn more about, be it the famous black leaders buried in South View or the small African-American cemetery on the edge of Frankie Allen Park in Buckhead.

“I’m really interested in how things are interconnected,” said Muhammad. “For instance, few people think about it, but the Civil Rights movement was happening here long before the 1960s. That’s just one part of the story that’s been forgotten. I’ve made it my mission to recover that part of the past that’s been lost.”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 770- 744-3042.