Historic Black Towns Alliance – 3: Landscape Design

1910 Tuskegee gardening students outside greenhouse – photo courtesy Tuskegee Archives
1910 Tuskegee gardening students outside greenhouse – photo courtesy Tuskegee Archives

Black landscape designers and gardeners have been present in America since the colonial days of this nation.  Wormley Hughes, African American slave, was trained as a “gardener” on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Virginia plantation for more than thirty years, beginning in 1794.  James F. Brown, escaped Negro slave, was the head “gardener” for the prominent, and classically styled, Mount Gulian estate in Dutchess County, New York from 1829 to 1864.  It is well documented that Mr. Brown often corresponded with the renowned White 19th century landscape designer and gardener, Andrew Jackson Downing.  Once Black Americans were able to own land, gardens became conscious, and integral, components of Black towns and settlements in all regions of the United States. The Tuskegee Institute 1899-1900 catalog listed courses in the Agriculture Division for men and women.  Separate courses were listed for “Horticulture” and “Market Gardening”, while “Floriculture and Landscape Gardening” were combined into a single course.  All were offered in a progressive sequence over two years of study.  The women’s second year, fall term, “Floriculture and Landscape Gardening” course description reads as follows:

Systematic botany, bouquet making, harmony of color, form and size of

flowers, laying out of private and public grounds, road, parks, walks, and

streets; entomology of the flower garden.

These and four other courses provided classroom and field training that addressed topics ranging from proper use of tools to sustainable practices and techniques.

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