cloth, 209 pp., $35.00
This in-depth study of the life of an African American slave turned master gardener is an enlightening examination of a period of American history that seems to have slipped from public scrutiny in recent years. Born in the South, James Francis Brown (1793–1868) became a fugitive slave when he sought to improve his circumstances by fleeing to the North. What makes this inquiry unique is that it is based on archival evidence and a journal that he kept from 1829 to 1866 when he was a free man. The author’s examination of antebellum culture makes for fascinating reading. As for Brown’s story, the author recalls the incidents that drove the former slave to leave his mistress, the abolitionists who were instrumental in the creation of Brown’s new life as a gardener in the Hudson Valley region, and his perseverance in his career in horticulture. Historian Armstead’s review of the status of American horticulture during the first half of the nineteenth century makes this volume intriguing reading for gardeners.
— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden