Black History Month
Thursday, February 1, 2024 – Wednesday, February 29, 2024
Online & At the Garden
Black History Month at NYBG spotlights the far-reaching botanical legacy of the African Diaspora—and the myriad ways American history is defined by Black history. Get to know storied pioneers in environmental science and agriculture, and make household names of today’s activists building communities around representation, identity, and diversity. With thoughtful conversations on the calendar, plus looks back at talks and events from the last year, you’ll see how the Black experience—from gardening and science to arts and culture—has shaped our relationship with plants.
Above: NYBG planted its first African American Garden in 2022. As a protector of the garden, and to celebrate ancestors, a traditional African American bottle tree was among its special features.
Plants as Liberation
This wide-ranging series of interviews, begun in February 2022, continues as NYBG Educator Arvolyn Hill speaks with Black people in the plant world. From herbalists and houseplant enthusiasts to farmers and gardeners, listen and learn how they are using plants as a powerful expression of liberation and freedom.
Plants as Liberation: Patrick Wilkin
Plants as Liberation: Cleopatra Tatabele
Rooted in Plants: The Story of Vanilla
Listen to Teen Explainers discuss Edmond Albius’s history-changing discovery while touring vanilla plants in the Haupt Conservatory and pressed specimens from the Steere Herbarium.
Lectures and Symposia
Enjoy programs from 2023 that examine culture and identity, including the vital role of food traditions—especially when cultural heritage or languages have been prohibited and erased.
Symposium: African American Garden: The Caribbean Experience
Food Dialogues: The Food of Poetry
African American Gardens
Supported by generous funding from the Mellon Foundation, The New York Botanical Garden will plant three African American Gardens between 2022 and 2024, each telling different stories of the African American experience through plants. All three gardens will be curated by NYBG Trustee Dr. Jessica B. Harris, America’s leading scholar on the food and foodways of the African Diaspora.
Learn about the contributions of Black scientists to our understanding of the plant world, the rich legacy of plants and knowledge about their uses that enslaved Africans brought to America, and other plant stories.
Cowpeas and the African Diaspora
Enslaved Africans brought the bean known as the cowpea with them to the New World, where it became a staple of Southern cuisines and is now generally associated with good luck and New Year’s celebrations.
In a series of three informative, wide-ranging Plant Talk posts, NYBG Associate Curator Benjamin Torke, Ph.D., explores the science and cultural history of cowpeas and the potential for herbarium specimens to fill in some of the gaps in that history.
Focus on Black Botanists
This fascinating series highlights under-recognized Black scientists whose research and discoveries have contributed to our collective knowledge and understanding of the plant world.
Marie Clark Taylor – Botanist and Educator:
Find out how to grow cosmos and the other colorful garden annuals that Dr. Taylor, the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in science from Fordham University, studied to understand the impact of light on plant development. Learn More
Thomas Gaither – Activist and Biologist:
Behind each collection is the life of the collector, often lost to history. We’re excited to celebrate the contributions of Dr. Gaither not only through his fungal collections but also through his advancements in the fight for civil rights. Learn More
Lafayette Frederick – Fungal Systematist:
See a type specimen of a fungal species described by Lafayette Frederick, a mycologist who followed in George Washington Carver’s footsteps to understand and document all manner of plant pathogens. Learn More
Thelma Perry – Mycologist and Teacher:
Discover one of the “hidden figures” of groundbreaking fungal research at the USDA Forest Service. Learn More
Dr. James Still – “Doctor of the Pines”:
A brief account of the life and legacy of an important 19th-century herbalist. Learn More