Evidence of slave lifestyle found in historic Frederick Douglass greenhouse

(Discovery News) In his eloquent autobiographies, abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass described the cruelty he experienced as an African-American slave in Maryland during the early 19th century. But Douglass’ descriptions may have been missing some important details about the richness of slave culture at the time.

In a greenhouse on a centuries-old estate where Douglass lived as a young boy, archaeologists have dug up a variety of both mundane objects and strategically placed symbols of spirituality. These artifacts show for the first time that slaves lived in the greenhouse and that they sustained African religious traditions, even as they probably outwardly practiced Christianity.

By analyzing grains of fossilized pollen from the site, researchers were also able to show that the slaves used a corner of the greenhouse to experiment with plants for food, medicinal and household purposes — beginning what would become an African-American gardening tradition.

Together, the wealth of new discoveries paints the broadest picture yet of the people who slaved away on a well-known plantation for centuries.

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