OLLI at Auburn Welcomes Abra Lee and Tour Tuskegee University with Keith Burrell
For two days in April, OLLI at Auburn welcomed Abra Lee – a horticulturalist, historian, and Auburn University graduate. Lee worked as landscape manager and horticulturalist for two international airports and is currently a freelance writer and lecturer for institutions such as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre and Smithsonian Gardens, but storytelling is her true passion.
OLLI hosted several events featuring Lee including Coffee and Conversation at the Auburn Senior Center and a public lecture at The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities on the relationship between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. It was an essay by Du Bois that inspired the title of her social media platform and forthcoming book, “Conquer the Soil” which aims to raise horticultural awareness through Black garden history. Lee shared stories of some of the greats of American horticulture including Effie Lee Newsome, the Harlem Renaissance writer and naturalist whose 1940 children’s poetry book, “Gladiola Garden,” was the inspiration for an award-winning design at the 2022 Philadelphia Flower Show by students in a class taught by Lee for Auburn’s Landscape Architecture program.
OLLI and community members also enjoyed a tour of Tuskegee University with Keith Burrell, Special Assistant to the Board of Trustees. The tour included a mural designed by Edward Lyons Pryce, an accomplished artist, who studied with George Washington Carver. Pryce earned his degree in agriculture in 1937 before becoming Alabama's first licensed African American Landscape Architect. Lee’s visit was made possible in part by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.