200+ African-American Women and the Norfolk Botanical Garden

African-American women employed by the Workers Progress Administration, are tilling the land that would eventually become the Norfolk Botanical Garden, originally Azalea Gardens.
African-American women employed by the Workers Progress Administration, are tilling the land that would eventually become the Norfolk Botanical Garden, originally Azalea Gardens.

In 1938, Norfolk, Virginia, was awarded $76,278 for the Azalea Garden Project. ⁣

200+ African American women, we’re hired as gardeners under the Workers Progress Administration. While being subjected to long work hours and low wages ( .25 cent an hour), by March 1939, the group had completed the following: ⁣

  • cleared dense vegetation and carried the equivalent of 150 truckloads of dirt by hand to build a levee for the lake.⁣
  • Planted four thousand azaleas, two thousand rhododendrons, several thousand miscellaneous shrubs and trees and one hundred bushels of daffodils⁣

There’s much more to their story. Briefly, Azalea Gardens is now Norfolk Botanical Garden. First-hand accounts of the African American WPA workers are included in the book titled ”WPA Original Gardeners” by Martha Williams. One woman described the working conditions as ”inhumane”. Norfolk Botanical Garden has hosted a WPA Heritage Celebration since 2009. A statue was erected in the WPA gardeners honor. ⁣

Source: [Norfolk Botanical Garden]


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