From Slavery to Freedom Garden Confronting the Past to Heal the Future


Contact Lan Tran to book a tour for your group, or click here for more information.

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, in areas such as 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.

This page is a living resource that will be continually updated to respond to emerging needs and accumulated knowledge.

A wooden gate to the From Slavery to Freedom garden


To promote understanding of the African Diaspora, the Heinz History Center and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy collaborated to create the From Slavery to Freedom Garden at the Frick Environmental Center. During the antebellum period of the 19th century Pittsburgh became a destination of freedom seekers. The From Slavery to Freedom Garden tells part of that story by showcasing plants used for food and medicinal purposes -- some found in woodlands and fields along the journey to freedom, others cultivated in home gardens of free people of color.

The From Slavery to Freedom garden was developed in partnership with the Heinz History Center as part of a larger exhibit that highlights the enslavement of people from Africa and its impact on the American economy, the history of the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad, and the impact of 19th century activism on the modern quest for civil and human rights in Pittsburgh. ​



The From Slavery To Freedom Garden showcases plants found in woodlands and fields that were used for food and medicinal purposes along the journey to freedom, as well as vegetables used in home gardens.

It 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.

To schedule a tour for your group, contact Lan Tran | 



The plants in the edge beds are wild native plants that grow in the forests of the northeast, and plants that you can find in Frick Park and other Pennsylvania State Parks and green spaces. These are plants that freedom seekers would have encountered and used to meet their survival needs. ​

Plants like the raspberries and blue berries that we eat can be found in the edge beds. These berries grow naturally in the wild. ​


The plants in the raised beds are plants that represent what we would typically find in an American market garden. These food stuffs were used for sustenance and as way of acquiring wealth and economic freedom. ​

The plants that we find in the market garden beds, often have a "wild cousin" or counterpart. For example, a carrot is domesticated, but it came from its wild cousin "wild carrot" or queen anne's lace.


Topics that are at the intersection of our troubled history are so important so that we can create a better future. The Education team at PPC would like to share some resources as well as an anti racist lesson plan that we have created, We recognize that teachers and educators, both formal and non formal, want to talk about these issues, and they need tools to help them do so. FEC is committed to providing the space to do this as well as the tools to do this. The story of the environment belongs to us all. We encourage the telling of these personal stories, in order to promote healing and growth.




Below is an example of an anti-racist lesson plan, developed by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It is meant to be used as a model for teachers visiting the garden. It can also be facilitated by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staff during a scheduled garden tour.