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James F. Brown and the Cultural Meanings of Gardening

On Monday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m., Myra Young Armstead, PhD, will speak at SUNY Orange’s Orange County Trust Company Great Room 101 at Kaplan Hall, on "James F. Brown and the Cultural Meanings of Gardening."

In antebellum America, horticulture was not yet the pastime of women it would become after the mid-nineteenth century. Men dominated the field. Leading horticulturalists were typically social elites—wealthy businessmen and politicians.  As the master gardener for Fishkill Landing's Mount Gulian estate, James F. Brown did not fit this profile.  This talk will describe James's background and how it was that this runaway slave, manumitted in New York State by the Verplanck family, entered the world of horticulture, and the meanings of this world in the minds of its contemporaries.

This program is free and open to the public.

Dr. Myra Young Armstead is the Lyford Paterson Edwards and Helen Gray Edwards Professor of Historical Studies at Bard College.  She received her masters and doctorate in history from the University of Chicago and her BA from Cornell University. She specializes in nineteenth century and early twentieth century American social and cultural history. 

She was recently awarded a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  This was granted in 2014-2015 for research on her latest project—a study of the origins of public history in the Progressive Era.  She is also the recipient of a 2015-2018 Collaborative Inquiry Team Fellowship from the Louisville Institute for a study of the responses of multicultural churches to contemporary economic issues.

She is the author of "'Lord, Please Don't Take Me In August': African Americans In Newport And Saratoga Springs, 1870 - 1930" (1999); "Might Change, Tall Within: Black Identity in the Hudson Valley" (2003); and "Freedom's Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America" (2012). She will have copies of this latest book on James F. Brown and will have a book signing following the lecture.

For more information, send an email to, call (845) 341-9386, or check out the SUNY Orange website at: Free and secure parking is available in the Kaplan Hall garage accessible at 73 First Street.

Event date, time and location.

Joanne Zipay
Cultural Affairs