What's In A Name? | Joyland

Aug 16, 2018

There are a lot of interesting names around Atlanta, but have you ever heard of a neighborhood called Joyland?

In this "What's In A Name," we explore the "amusing" history of the South Atlanta neighborhood.

Joyland has a unique history compared to other Atlanta neighborhoods: “Joyland” was an amusement park built for African American families in the early 1920's.

This was an era when racial segregation pervaded many aspects of life in the United States and especially in the South. It was also a period known as the "Gilded Age" of amusement parks, which lasted from the turn of the 19th century up until the Great Depression.

The opening of the park was detailed in a 1921 Atlanta Constitution article. It describes Joyland as a “colored Lakewood," an amusement park for white families. The fairgrounds of that park still exist in South Atlanta as the home to the EUE/Screen Gems studio complex and the Cellairis amphitheater.

The opening ceremony of Joyland amusement park was attended by the mayor of Atlanta along with several prominent pastors from the American American church community, including the pastor of the Big Bethel Church on Auburn Avenue.

The Atlanta Constitution describes the opening of Joyland in 1921
Credit Atlanta Constitution

Unfortunately, there is not much information available about the goings-on of the park or how well attended it was. What little information that remains on Joyland can be found at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in a few snippets from the Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta's oldest black newspaper.

According to one such article, the 10-acre plot formerly occupied by the amusement park was purchased in 1958 by the South Atlanta Civic League who turned it into public park, also called "Joyland Park."

The follwing year, the Joyland Park Community Civic League was chartered by the state, making Joyland an official community. The occasion was celebrated with a ceremony at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Joyland.

The state charter is presented to members of the Joyland community in 1959
Credit Atlanta Daily World

What happened to the amusement park itself remains a mystery. It was likely only open for a few years before closing due to the Great Depression.

The park was eventually renamed in 1995 to Arthur Langford Jr. Park after a state senator who grew up in the neighborhood.

Today, the only thing that remains of Joyland is some old newspaper clippings, and the name itself.

Click here to find more stories behind curious Atlanta names from our summer 2018 series "What's In A Name?" on 88.5 GPB Atlanta’s All Things Considered.