During the antebellum period of the 19th century, people journeyed to Pittsburgh to be free.
From 1501 to the 1880s, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade transported over 440,000 people from Africa to North America. More than just people came over on the ships during the slave trade -- those who were enslaved also brought a wealth of knowledge and skills, including horticulture, metal work, agriculture, and textiles.
Coming from Africa to the United States, the enslaved were completely unfamiliar with their new environment, yet found resources and amassed knowledge of the new land. This proved essential for survival, and was a key element of the journey from slavery to freedom.
The African diaspora who sought freedom by traveling north used all they knew of the land as they crossed the Cumberland, Allegheny, and Blue Ridge Mountains. They had to avoid slave hunters, find food and shelter, and face harsh climate and terrain. Wild plants were foraged for food and medicine -- remedies of their own making that addressed a myriad of ailments.
In collaboration with the Heinz History Center, a small piece of this story is being told through the From Slavery to Freedom Garden at the Frick Environmental Center. The garden showcases plants that were used for food and medicinal purposes found in woodlands and fields along the journey to freedom, as well as vegetables used in home gardens.
The garden, newly planted this summer, includes wheelchair-accessible paths and raised planters and meets the high sustainability standards of the Living Building Challenge as well as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification processes. See below for a timelapse of the garden's construction below.
The From Slavery to Freedom Garden is a launching point for learning about the history of our lands, and the generations of people who lived off of and cared for them. We invite you to join us in celebrating community, history, and the exciting first-year harvest of the garden with us at A Seat at the Table, Your Place in the Park on Saturday, September 16th! Learn more about this free, family-friendly event here.
growing now in the from slavery to freedom gardenCowpeas • Peppers • Tomatoes • Beans • Kale • Collards • Carrots • Onions • Swiss Chard • Okra
Second image courtesy of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.