Black Man’s Green Thumb Proves Best Revenge for White Intolerance
When Pearl Fryar needed to move to Bishopville, South Carolina in 1976 to start a new job as a janitor in a can factory located there, the first house he and his wife, Metra, settled on was located on the white side of town. However, they changed their plans upon being informed by their new neighbors that they weren’t welcome because “Black people don’t keep up their yards.”
Though hurt by the racist remark, the African-American couple didn’t become embittered but instead opted to buy a place on a 3½ acre plot across the proverbial tracks in the black community. Immediately, Pearl began to cultivate a top-flight garden, determined to make those bigots eat their words. Even though he had to work a 12-hour day shift, he would find time in the evenings to attend to his flowers and bushes, hoping to become the first black person to win the Iris Garden Club’s “Yard of the Month Award.”
Because he didn’t have much money to fund his ambitious enterprise, most of Pearl’s plants and seedlings came from the dump behind the local nursery. And even though this son of a sharecropper didn’t have any book knowledge about botany, he had enough of a green thumb to figure out ways to revive all sorts of ailing and abandoned vegetation.
Mr. Fryar knew that to land the “Yard of the Month Award” he would have to create something spectacular, so he began shaping his growing shrubs into an eye-catching collection of over 150 topiary figures. Not only did he ultimately earn the coveted accolade, but today folks flock from all over to see his world-renowned garden. In fact, because Bishopville is in economic decline due to the outsourcing overseas of the industries which had served as the city’s backbone, it can thank its lucky stars that Pearl’s topiaries have turned tourism into an alternate source of revenue.
This moving story of rejection-turned-acceptance is the subject of A Man Named Pearl, a touching bio-pic about a humble soul who encountered racism and responded with love, peace and goodwill towards all people. A life-affirming documentary illustrating how a black man’s green thumb proved to be the best revenge for white intolerance.
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