Hidden from view at the “back of the big house” on plantations, the gardens created by African American slaves in the U.S. are an important part of garden history. In addition to tending the crops of slave owners, many African Americans found time to cultivate their own garden plots. These gardens provided additional food to the enslaved community and sometimes yielded enough produce to sell for profit.

As scholar John Vlach describes, “the creation of slave landscapes was one of the strategies employed by blacks to make slavery survivable.” Creating gardens was one way for slaves to have a small measure of autonomy. Gardening helped them to nourish their own bodies rather than crops their owners sold.

Vlach, John. The Back of the Big House, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1993), 95, 108.

Montrie, Chad. Making a Living: Work and Environment in the United States, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina), 2008.

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mother Gardens: Womanist Prose, (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983).