The Norfolk Botanical Garden hosted its 11th Annual Garden Heritage Celebration on Saturday, April 20. The annual event pays tribute to the 220 African-American men and women who laid the foundation for the garden as part of the nation’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects of the 1930s. Working for weekly salaries of 25 cents and in harsh and dangerous swamp terrain, they cleared the land and planted the first flowers to create the garden.
This year’s speaker was Terry Brown, Superintendent, Fort Monroe National Monument. The emcee was Ashley Smith, WVEC 13.
A poem written and read by Nylan Kelly, Teens With A Purpose, was one of the highlights of the program. A second poem written by Gracie Anthony, daughter of Josephine Hopkins, an original WPA worker, was read by Cleanse Platt, NBG Board of Directors.
Also, Groundbreakers Awards for their various endeavors were given to Chandra Pittman, Executive Director of the Sankofa Project; Dr. Kimberli Gant, McKinnon Center, Chrysler Museum; and Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward, Director, Hampton University Museum.
Helen Ferguson Williams, daughter of Mary E. Ferguson, an original WPA worker, read the names of the known persons who comprised the original 220 workers. Efforts continue to identify more of the original workers.
For more information on this project, visit norfolkbotaniclgarden.org.