How Plants Were Used To Gain Freedom On The Underground Railroad

SEP 14, 2017 

90.5 WESA

An overlooked part of the Underground Railroad’s history is being brought back to life in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park. The From Slavery to Freedom Garden is a collaboration between the Frick Environmental Center and the Senator John Heinz History Center. 

Samuel W. Black is the director of African American programs at the History Center, and project director for the From Slavery to Freedom exhibit there. Nineteenth century paintings, African textiles and even shackles used on enslaved African people are some of the objects on display within the museum’s walls. But as Black was putting together the exhibit, he found a hole in the literature.

“There’s very little mention of the experiences of runaway slaves in terms of the impact of natural environment,” Black says.

So he did the research himself. Black looked at slave narratives and other primary sources to gather information about over 50 plant species that played a role in the lives of enslaved people who travelled north looking for their freedom. Some of those are now growing right outside the entrance of the Frick Environmental Center... read the full article