Jamaica Kincaid argues that gardens should not only be a place of peace and restfulness but also a place to remember atrocities committed by America against African Americans. In Kincaid’s essay “Sowers and Reapers” she questions a live audience about a statue of John Caldwell Calhoun, an American vice president who was a notorious racist and supporter of slavery, which is located in a garden right outside of Kincaid’s hotel in Charleston. She remarked “How hard it must be for the black citizens of Charleston to pass each day by the statue of a man who hated them, cast in a heroic pose.” She tells them this because she knows that some of the most famous gardens in the world were built by slaves, and wants people to think of gardens as places of beauty and tragedy, not just a place of restfulness and serenity. She doesn’t want the public to forget the atrocities of slavery, so she reminds them by pointing out the  statue of Calhoun that is remembered as a hero and protector of states rights, but was also a racist and strong supporter of slavery. So just like a garden built by slaves, Calhoun himself is a contrast.


Kincaid believes that gardens should be a place of thought and self-reflection, and not just a place to forget about all your problems. She says “Why must people insist that the garden is a place of rest and repose, a place to forget the cares of the world, a place in which to distance yourself from the painful responsibility that comes with being a human being?” I think that it’s clear that she believes people should see the whole story with everything, whether it be a garden or a man. That is the only way to truly be able to be grateful of something.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Kincaid – Sowers and Reapers by Neo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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Youth Voices is organized by teachers at local sites of the National Writing Project and in partnership with Educator Innovator.

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