Plants and the Black Experience

The mission of Cornell Botanic Gardens is to share the deep and enduring connections between the rich diversity of the plant world and the equally rich diversity of cultures worldwide. This garden display and exhibit shares the knowledge, skill, and resilience of enslaved Africans, their descendants, and today’s Black community and their deep connections to plants and the cuisines they inspired.

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Garden Display

Over 20 plants that were grown and used by enslaved Africans in the Americas are part of the plant display in front of the Welcome Center.

Black-eyed Pea

Vigna unguiculata


Abelmoschus esculentus

Sweet potato

Ipomoea batatas


An exhibit inside the Welcome Center reveals how enslaved Africans used their culinary skills and plants that came with them from West Africa to prepare foods, which eventually became regional staples.

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Cultivators of Celebration

This display pays homage to the remarkable individuals who nurture and safeguard the rich heritage associated with the plants showcased in “Seeds of Survival and Celebration."

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Audio Narratives

Nine of the plants displayed include short audio narratives to learn how they were used by enslaved Africans and made their way into regional cuisines we know and love today.

Listen and Learn

Our Collaborators

Our staff worked closely with Cornell staff, faculty, and students to curate “Seeds of Survival and Celebration”

Meet our Collaborators