cover image African-American Gardens and Yards in the Rural South

African-American Gardens and Yards in the Rural South

Richard Westmacott. University of Tennessee Press, $45 (198pp) ISBN 978-0-87049-761-2

While this is a welcome addition to the field of vernacular garden history, it is most likely to reach a limited circle of specialists. Westmacott has written a social history examining how African Americans have used their gardens and yards in three areas of the rural South from the years before the Civil War to the present. He first frames his topic by surveying historical African gardening practices and accounts of African Americans' yards and gardens, including some pre-Civil War accounts. He then begins a detailed comparison of contemporary gardens in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, with separate chapters on function, composition and gardening practices. The book's most interesting sections are toward the end, where Westmacott discusses the values, ideals, and beliefs these gardens have symbolized for their owners, and how these concepts may have changed over time. He also explores the complex issues of identity for the gardeners, and what makes their gardens characteristically African American. Westmacott's thorough appendices include the questions used in structured discussions with gardeners, garden survey plans, studies of plant use and a list of references. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)