Historic Photos

The Sugarland Ethno-History Project image collection includes unique tintypes and photographs that depict African American life in rural Montgomery County, Maryland, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Most of the portraits in the collection were taken in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., and depict members of the community in their finest clothes. Other photos show more candid views of local men and women engaged in daily life.

The “well photo,” the most iconic Sugarland photo, shows adult Samuel Jackson at the community well in 1934 while five children—Mary Smith, Marjorie Lee, Sarah Lee, Tilghman Lee, Jr., and Idella Lee—look on. To different viewers, this photo has symbolized pride in accomplishment, elders undertaking hard work as an example to the young, or a community drawing life and sustenance anew.

Images from the Sugarland collection are on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and have appeared in the 2019 PBS documentary Reconstruction: America After the Civil War.

Many of the people in these photographs and tintypes are known by name, but we encourage you to contact us if you have any information about the men and women who have not yet been identified.

A sampling from the Sugarland image collection appears below. To inquire about other subjects and themes, or for information about licensing photos from this collection in your film, textbook, or other project, please write to info@sugarlandproject.org.