In Search of Maudell Sleet’s Garden
Art offers an archive that documents the environmental past. As cities grew quickly in the New South at the start of the twentieth century, women established urban gardens that provided self-sufficiency and meager profits for their households. Urban planners and zoning eliminated most of these opportunities by the late 1930s. The artist Romare Bearden, born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1911, recalled in his art the beauty of urban gardens among African American homes. This article considers those gardening practices through two Bearden collages centered on the unknown gardener Maudell Sleet and chronicles how cities changed with the demise of urban gardening.