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Slave garden at Smithfield, Virginia cultivates deeper understanding of early colonial times

An interpretive slave garden has been added to the grounds at Historic Smithfield, expanding the plantation’s story of 18th century life on the Virginia frontier. Photo courtesy of Historic Smithfield Plantation.

Some of the plants originally introduced by slaves brought to the Colonies include yams, okra, melons, sorghum and cow peas, as well as other lesser known plants such as lablab beans, spiny cucumbers and dagga.

By April Danner
The Roanoke Times
Nov 5, 2017

Excerpts:

As the harvest season winds down, visitors to Historic Smithfield Plantation can add to their tour of the property a new feature on the expansive grounds: an interpretive slave garden, which recreates an important facet of life for the enslaved people of colonial Virginia, who planted small gardens to enhance their diet, provide medicinals and maintain spiritual traditions.

Research indicates that many of the first enslaved people owned by Smithfield patriarch William Preston and possibly brought to the plantation were from areas such as Senegambia, Sierre Leon, Nigeria and the area of Ghana. Slave ships generally brought food from these areas to feed the captured people, and seeds from African plants also found their way to the Americas by way of the slaves themselves, smuggled in their clothing and hair. Some of the plants originally introduced by slaves brought to the Colonies include yams, okra, melons, sorghum and cow peas, as well as other lesser known plants such as lablab beans, spiny cucumbers and dagga.

Read the complete article here.

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