The 15th Annual Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG) Garden Heritage Celebration was held on September 17 to honor the African-American women and men who first planted the Garden 85 years ago and recognize their hard work and dedication.
Nicole Livas, WVEC-13 News reporter, served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Abra Lee, author and Director of Horticulture at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, was the keynote speaker.
The event featured a reading by Helen Ferguson-Williams of the 74 names of known WPA workers. Her mother the late Mary Ferguson was honored in years past as perhaps the last surviving of the 220 persons. NBG is actively seeking to identify the other unnamed Black women and men who cleared the swamp land and planted the first flowers, a labor project funded by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.
NBG presented Groundbreaker awards to Abra Lee, along with three other individuals, including Dr. Rex Ellis, Founding Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture; Becky Livas, the first African-American TV Newscaster in Hampton Roads; and Thomas Ransom, Virginia Region President of Truist.
The WPA Garden Heritage Day began in 2008. If you have a family member that you believe is one of the 220 WPA workers, please visit the Garden’s website.