Backstory and Context
The Arboretum is located in the
midst of hundreds of acres of black walnut, poplar, hickory, white oak, and
sweet gum trees situated within walking distance of rivers that provided vital
transportation needed to provide income to residents. The historical markers located within the Adkins Arboretum gives visitors an inside look at the
harsh realities endured by escaped black slaves. Escapees found ways to use these wetlands to evade slave catchers and they lived off of the land to survive.
The Arboretum portrays the ways in which former slaves adjusted to these conditions by discussing the connection between geography, nature, and the Underground Railroad. For example, fruit trees provided food and tree resin provided pain relief to lesions. At the same time, Greenbrier thickets cut their clothing and their skin.
In addition to experiencing the natural beauty of the arboretum, historical markers allow visitors to consider the experience of runaway slaves and the role of nature and topography in the larger history of the Underground Railroad. There are also signs that highlight the natural life found within the Eastern Shore area of the United States. Guests will be able to see different plants in bloom dependent upon when they schedule their visit. In the winter months, guests can expect to see trees such as the eastern red cedar, sweetgum, as well as swamp rose mallow. In the summer months, guests can see a variety of flowers as well as fruit-bearing plants which provided key survival nutrition.
1. “Adkins Arboretum-Slavery Arboretum. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.” The Historical Marker Database, accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=79355.
2. “Adkins Arboretum. A Chesapeake Native Garden.” Adkins Arboretum, accessed July 17, 2017, http://www.adkinsarboretum.org.