I Have Started for Canaan: The Story of the African American Town of Sugarland

Regular price $25 Unit price  per 

Winner of the 2020 Michael F. Dwyer Award for Historic Preservation from Montgomery Preservation, Inc.

Published by the Sugarland Ethno-History Project in 2020, I Have Started for Canaan tells the story of Sugarland from emancipation to the present day.

Defying familiar narratives of the African American experience that focus on sharecropping or urban life, I Have Started for Canaan is a remarkable chronicle of rural self-sufficiency. In a corner of the countryside 20 miles from the nation’s capital, the Sugarland families owned 200 acres of farmland immediately after the Civil War. At its height, the town boasted a schoolhouse, a general store, a post office, a practice hall for a cornet band, and a church that still stands today.

To the best of our knowledge, I Have Started for Canaan is the first book-length history of a Reconstruction-era African American town in Maryland—and a story with national implications.

All proceeds from this book will fund the upkeep of the historic Sugarland church, the ongoing preservation of documents and artifacts, and the creation of new resources for the public to understand and appreciate African American history.

In addition to ordering I Have Started for Canaan directly from us, you can find the book in the Poolesville area at these community businesses:

Locals Farm Market
  19929 Fisher Ave.
  Poolesville, Md. 20837

 Calleva Farm Store
 19936 Fisher Ave.
 Poolesville, Md. 20837

 Read coverage of the book from January 2021 in the Beacon newspaper:


“Rooted in the experience of a community as it emerged from the harrowing aftermath of slavery, this highly anticipated book traces the triumph of successive generations on the rocky path from post–Civil War to post-civil rights movement. More than just a local history, I Have Started for Canaan tells a wider story of a nascent ‘African America’ and illuminates the unseen struggles of those who rose to secure their newfound but tenuous freedom.”

—Anthony Cohen, historian, The Menare Foundation

Sample pages from I Have Started for Canaan: