Plant Talk

Explore Black Botany: The Nature of Black Experience

Posted in History & People , Inside our Collections on September 16, 2020, by Matt Newman

An illustration of yellow-tipped, fan-shaped orange peacock flowers.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima (peacock flower); Maund, Benjamin, (1790–1863); The Botanist: containing accurately coloured figures, of tender and hardy ornamental plants. London : R. Groombridge, 1840

Explore our online exhibit, Black Botany: The Nature of Black Experience, which seeks to acknowledge the complex relationship between enslaved Black people, nature, and the colonial environment and reconsider the conscious omission of Black knowledge of the natural world.

The exhibit focuses on five plants—cotton, rice, the peacock flower, peanut, and vanilla orchid. These plants offer a unique lens through which to explore the documentary record about the lived experiences of Black people related to the innovation and impact of these plants. The exhibit features several works from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and Archival Collections of The New York Botanical Garden, along with plant specimens from the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium.

The exhibit was curated by Rashad Bell, MLIS, Collection Maintenance Associate at the Mertz Library, and Nuala Caomhánach, former Humanities Institute Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at New York University.

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