GDOT Targets Historic Black Macon Community for Highway Expansion (UPDATE 1)


pleasant hill(APN) MACON –The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has two I-75 widening projects in Macon, Georgia.  One project is still in the planning stage and will build “truck only lanes” starting somewhere around I-475 the Macon by-pass and goes 40 miles to McDonough.

The other is a safety improvement project at the junction of I-75 and I-16 because of accidents and traffic jams in this area.  This project will take more land and twenty-six homes in the small community of Pleasant Hill in Macon.


Pleasant Hill is designated as a national historic district, and is struggling on several fronts to preserve its historic African American ancestral heritage.


“Per square foot there is no place in the country that has produced more historic iconic African American leaders than Pleasant Hill,” Dr.Thomas Duval, a historian told Atlanta Progressive News during this reporter’s research trip to Macon.


Many know that “Little Richard” Penniman, the architect of Rock and Roll, who was born and began his career in Pleasant Hill.


But few people know all the other historic iconic African American leaders who are from Pleasant Hill.  Dr. Duval took APN on a tour of Pleasant Hill and shared the stories of prominent leaders from that community.  Here’s a few who overcame racism to achieve greatness.


William Sanders Scarborough, who went from slavery in Macon to become the president of Wilberforce College.


U.S. Rep. Jefferson Franklin Long, the first elected African American to serve in the U.S. Congress from 1870 to 1871.


Lucy Craft Laney, who founded the first school for African American children in Augusta, Georgia in 1883.


L.H. Williams, who founded the Academy for the Negro Blind (ANB), which was located where MCA is today.  Ray Charles attended ANB.


John Oliver Killens, who co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild; his politically charged novels earned two Pulitzer Prize nominations.


Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, who posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War.


This is just the tip of the iceberg, with too many people to name in this article.


Today, GDOT plans to widen I-75 through this historic neighborhood.


In a video prepared for the public, GDOT paints a rosey picture about how lovely the widened highway will look.  Toward the end of the video, it begins a section of Mitigation Measures, without ever really saying what they are mitigating.


GDOT describes how placards and signs will tell the history of a community that once existed and thrived, and also, by the way, that 26 homes will be moved.


In the 1960’s, Interstate 75 split the Pleasant Hill neighborhood in half without any regard for or input from the community.


“They did it with reckless abandon… people were told your house is in the way so it’s got to go,” Peter Givens, President of Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group, told APN, remembering what happened some fifty years ago.


A portion of Linwood Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Pleasant Hill and Macon’s prominent African American citizens, was taken for I-75 over fifty years ago.


“There were atrocities done in the sixties… bodies were not exhumed, they were just bulldozed over picked up and put in a dump truck and dumped who knows where,” Givens told APN.


That is why the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group has been working with GDOT since 2005 to make sure such atrocities don’t happen again.


The Neighborhood Group has already been successful in one phase, with the 26 houses that are going to be moved to another location in Pleasant Hill.


“Those people were paid for their homes above fair market value because they would have to purchase another two bedroom home today at a higher rate.  You could not do that at a fair market value, so we got them to offer more money,” Givens said.


The mitigation plan was written by the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group and this is what GDOT is supposed to honor to reduce the damage to Pleasant Hill with the highway widening.


It includes the following projects:


  • Create two new parks in Pleasant Hill.


  • Move “Little Richard” Penniman house to another location and turn it into a Community Resource Center.


  • Replace and upgrade the David Lucas Pedestrian Bridge that crosses over I-75.


  • Improve sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and create a walking path for a heritage tour.


  • Transform an open drainage ditch into a grass covered culvert.


  • Construct noise and visual barriers.


  • Move and fully restore up to 26 historic properties.


GDOT has purchased all the twenty six homes and fifteen alternative lots for those houses to be moved on.


“None of the mitigation plan has been acted on physically.  It’s been a lot of paperwork and back and forth with GDOT.  It’s an ongoing project and we are constantly meeting with GDOT to work out problems.  It hasn’t been easy and you never know…. but we are working to make it come to fruition,” Givens said.


However, some say that the State of Georgia does not have to widen the highway in this manner, and that there are viable alternatives that could protect Pleasant Hill.


Ted Terry, the new State Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, wants to see more commuter rail and high speed rail between Atlanta and the rest of the state.


“At some point we have to recognize that… we keep widening roads and putting our tax revenues into an infrastructure that may be harmful to the long term health of the environment,” Terry told APN


“The Sierra Club is interested in environmental justice to protect Georgia’s environment but also how we do it in a way that marginalized communities don’t suffer at the cost of growth and development,” Terry said.


“Commuter rail and high speed rail will benefit the environment and the economy… and will stop marginalizing minority neighborhoods that tend to be most impacted by these mass projects like the pipeline and truck routes,” Terry said.




UPDATE 1 and CORRECTION: Following receiving an email from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Atlanta Progressive News has corrected the first paragraph of the above article and added a new second paragraph to clarify that there are actually two transportation projects being planned – only of which would result in the removal of homes from the Pleasant Hill community.


  • George Fadil Muhammad

    Which one of our elected officials from the Mayor of Macon-Bibb, County Commissioners, State Legislators, Water Authority, School Board is not familiar with the legacy and value of Pleasant Hill? How about our preachers and clergy? Yet you don’t use your authority, influence, and leverage of voice to rally in unity for protecting valuable historic black neighborhoods. You freshly re-elected or re-selected or re-defaulted leaders, how do you represent the best interests of black people in Macon-Bibb County? I don’t see it at all! Maybe one or two are even trying to do anything when you ALL should be fighting mightily and rallying the people as ONE! You silently allow this to happen and some of you even praise the enemies of the people that steadily work to erase black heritage and undermine black people for offering a “sweet death” to Pleasant Hill. The GDOT cares nothing about Pleasant Hill or it would not be doing what it is doing. Money reigns, greed reigns, your bigotry and disrespect for black people reigns, while the black community of Middle Georgia continues to fail its ancestors, swimming in apathy, selfishness and ignorance. We have to demand justice with our Unity, but who is willing?

  • This is not right at all

  • The GDOT project in Pleasant Hill is called the I-16 and I-75 safety improvement project, not the I-75 widening that runs 40 miles from Macon to McDonough .

  • Shame on the deceptive GDOT officials and their gravy-train contractors and politicians. Here is link to website reflecting the majority of Macon Citizens who oppose the design of the interchange:

    GDOT and their ilk are betraying the Pleasant Hill Community and all of Macon again. Sad when we can not trust our government to do right.

  • Here is a list of the Macon Organizations that went on-record as opposing the GDOT design:

    Altamaha Riverkeeper

    A T Long and Son Contractors

    Big House Foundation

    Big “O” Foundation

    Bragg Jam

    Brown’s Mount Association

    Cannonball House

    Caution Macon

    Changing Macon Social Club

    Cherry Blossom Festival

    Citizens Advisory Committee / MATS

    Douglass Theatre

    Eleventh Hour

    Federated Garden Clubs of Macon

    Friends of Fort Hawkins

    Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club

    Georgia Children’s Museum

    Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation

    Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

    Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation

    Hay House

    High Street Unitarian Universalist Church

    Historic Macon Foundation

    Historic Rose Hill Cemetery Foundation

    Huguenin Heights Neighborhood

    I-16 / I-75 Improvement Project Advisory Committee of GDOT

    Intown Macon Neighborhood Association

    James and Jodi Palmer, Publishers

    Junior League of Macon

    Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission

    Macon Arts

    Macon-Bibb NAACP

    Macon Cemetery Preservation Corporation

    Macon Civic Club

    Macon Film and Video Festival (MAGA)

    Macon Independent Restaurant Association

    Macon Symphony Orchestra

    Macon Tree Commission

    Madison / Poss

    Museum of Arts and Sciences

    North Highlands Neighborhood

    Riverside Cemetery

    Rosa Taylor Area Neighborhood Watch

    Shirley Hills Neighborhood

    Sidney Lanier Cottage

    Sierra Club- Ocmulgee Chapter

    St. Peter Claver School

    Temple Beth Israel

    The Black Pages

    Theatre Macon

    Vineville United Methodist Church

    Vineville Neighborhood Association

    We Care Group

    Winship Hills Neighborhood

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