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Fire and Freedom: Food and Enslavement in Early America


This traveling exhibit curated by the National Library of Medicine explores the important role played by slave labor in keeping American colonial settlers nourished.

In the Chesapeake region, during the early colonial era, European settlers survived by relying upon indentured servants and slave labor for life-saving knowledge of farming and food acquisition. Europeans suffered poor nutrition and widespread illness caused by the lack of medical care. Despite their perilous position, colonists used human resources, the natural environment and maritime trade to gain economic prosperity. But, it is through the labor of slaves, like those at George Washington's Mount Vernon, that one can learn about the ways that meals transcend taste and sustenance.

The exhibit is free and open to all during normal library hours. Parking is available for a fee in the 8th Street parking deck. If special accommodations are needed, please contact Thelma Mack, research and education coordinator, at (804) 828-0017.

Image: Fire and Freedom, by the Design Minds