South of the center of the city, Brownsville, Lakewood, and South Bend are neighborhoods we often discuss when speaking of local history. Joyland may mostly be remembered for its beautiful amusement park, however there is more to Joyland than just fun and games.
Joyland is a neighborhood that is bordered by the downtown connector to the west, High Point to the north, Pryor Avenue and The Villages at Carver to the east and Amal Heights to the south. In it there is a development of tiny, single-family homes and was once the home of an amusement park built for African-Americans in 1921, thus the neighborhood’s nickname.
On May 16, 1921, in the South Atlanta area, roughly 5,000 people of both races gathered for the opening of Joyland Park, the only amusement park for African Americans. The Atlanta Independent reported at the time that the park was “the only shady park” where African Americans “could enjoy themselves.” In attendance at this historic event were Atlanta Mayor James Key, Big Bethel AME Church pastor Rev. Dr. Richard Henry Singleton, Wheat Street Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Dr. P. James Bryant, Jessie O. Thomas, founder of the Atlanta University School of Social Work and first director of the Southern Field Division of the National Urban League, and Prominent Black physician and founding member of the Atlanta NAACP chapter Dr. William F. Penn. Joyland was the home of grand animals, picnic space, and Joyland baseball park under the direction of the Elk Quick Step baseball team.
About one month after opening, Joyland was hit by an act of nature; Wind destroyed Joyland Park, Leopards escaped when their cage was hit by a tree, and the Big top of Billie Lipscomb’s show was blown off. The park was resorted by insurance funds to its Surrounding Joyland, a subdivision for African Americans also called Joyland Park, built here. Residents included farmers, farmhands, and laborers. Lots were around 4,000 square feet in size. Advertisement for Joyland Park was done by WR Sheppard Co/owner + developer. Boating of Clean drinking water and two streetcars. “Highest class colored residential section and recreation center” in Atlanta. Sheppard developed 13 vacant lots sold for $25,000. WR Sheppard acquired the large tract of land on Pryor adjacent to Clark University that was exclusively for Black Atlanta residents.
With the development of Joyland Park came the completion of roads within the area. The sale of 46 lots for a “Better class of colored people to get away from noise and dirt of the city” grew Joyland Park to a premiere “Colored” neighborhood. Plans to remodel the Joyland Park dancing pavilion into a clubhouse were another feature that drove housing sales in 1926. Unfortunately, Joyland Amusement Park closed this same year.
Despite the closing of the amusement park, Joyland continued to grow. Additionally, in 1950 Highpoint Housing, located at 1417 Pryor Road SW, was open. By 1957, 4th Ward councilman Charlie Leftwich moved forward to purchase the old Joyland Park property, 10 acres with bond funds for Negro Park. Joyland Park Community Civic League fought for the Park for two years, along with South Atlanta Civic League, to service the students of the three neighborhood schools. The Park would feature a baseball field, playground, and picnic areas.
Through highway development/displacement and white flight, Joyland’s narrative of a thriving neighborhood went into hidden history through the years. By 1995, Joyland Park, at the center of the community, was renamed Arthur Langford Park in honor of city councilman, Georgia state senator, and minister Arthur Langford, Jr., further silencing the legacy of Joyland. However, despite it, all the stories of Joyland live through its legacy residents and the Joyland Civic League Association.