Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Presents “Freedom’s Gardener: The Life of James F. Brown”

February marks Black History month in the United States, honoring the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history.  As a way to highlight this important history in Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation presents “Freedom’s Gardener: The Life of James F. Brown.” This virtual program will be a presentation from Dr. Myra Young Armstead.  Armstead will share the story of James F. Brown, (1793-1868) who escaped slavery and became the master gardener at Mount Gulian, the estate of the Verplanck family in Fishkill Landing, now known as Beacon, New York.  The virtual program will take place on Thursday, February 23 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom. 

James F. Brown is remembered because he kept a detailed diary for 37 years. Brown was a voter and homeowner and led an active social life in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Dr. Armstead notes Brown’s faithful, detailed record was remarkable for most Americans of his day and virtually unheard of for an African-American man.  In her analysis of the Brown diaries Dr. Armstead reveals Brown “believed his life as a former slave and free African-American living in the Hudson Valley meant something.”

Myra Young Armstead, PhD, a history professor at Bard College, recently authored a book about Brown, “Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America.”  Her other published works include: “Lord, Please Don’t Take Me in August: African Americans in Newport and Saratoga Springs, 1870-1930,” “Mighty Change, Tall Within: Black Identity in the Hudson Valley,” and a forthcoming book, “Memory and Enslavement: Schuyler House, Old Saratoga, and the Saratoga Patent in History, Historical Practice, and Historical Imagination.” 

“The Foundation is pleased to continue its Black History Program this year by hosting Dr. Myra Young Armstead. We look forward to sharing the important contributions that James F. Brown made,” said Samantha Bosshart, Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.  This virtual program will take place on Zoom for a suggested donation of $10 or more. For additional information or to register for the virtual program visit or call (518) 587-5030. Everyone who pre-registers for this program will be emailed a Zoom link in advance and will receive a link to the recording.  To learn about other diverse stories in Saratoga Springs, including past Black History Month programs “An Evening with Solomon Northup” with Clifford Mealy and “Saratoga Soul Brandtville Blues” with Carol Daggs, please visit the Foundation’s YouTube page.

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