Martha McClenny Williams at Prince Books
Martha McClenny Williams
WPA Original Gardeners
Saturday, October 28th, 2017
The Great Depression created a loss of jobs, extreme hardship and desperation in Norfolk, VA and the rest of the country. Men and women took any offer made to feed their family and survive. The City of Norfolk received a WPA grant to create an azalea garden that would provide employment, create income for the city and rival other gardens in the country. The City hired 200 African American women and 20 men for the project. The author has presented a captivating story about the swamp land cleared using hand tools to create a national beauty. Stories from the last known gardener and family members of other gardeners revealed hardship and friendship. She tells of the young Norfolk scholars who sparked the interest and did research to find original gardeners. Accolades received by the garden are included and reports of the city and garden’s recognition of original gardeners today.
Martha M. Williams, Ph.D. has served on local, state and international non-profit boards. She believes one of the most important board appointments was the Norfolk Botanical Garden board of directors where she witnessed the unfolding story of its origins. Martha is a retired university professor. She attended Hampton University after growing up on the family farm in Southampton County. Her experiences on the farm have given her a deep appreciation for working the land whether farming or gardening. Since retirement she enjoys reading and painting.