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Conquer the Soil

Black America and the Untold Stories of Our Country's Gardeners, Farmers, and Growers

By Abra Lee

Conquer the Soil profiles 45 hidden figures of horticulture—the Black men and women whose accomplished careers in the plant world are little known or untold. Among them are Wormley Hughes, an enslaved African-American who was head gardener at Monticello and dug Jefferson’s grave; Annie Vann Reid, an ex-teacher turned entrepreneur in South Carolina who owned a five-acre greenhouse and nursery in the 1940s that sold millions of plants and seeds; and David August Williston, a graduate of Cornell University and the first African-American landscape architect, a student of Liberty Hyde Bailey, and the designer of the Tuskegee University campus. The lively text is enriched by illustrations of each individual, making this a beaituful package. In Conquer the Soil, Abra Lee--a rising star in the plant world--gives these women and men the spotlight they deserve and enriches our collective understanding of the history of horticulture. 

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February 17, 2026