2015 - Ongoing
After the American Civil War, eighteen black soldiers came home as free men to the very same plantation they served and created Unionville, the only town in America founded by veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops. The land on which it was built belonged to the wealthiest plantation owners in Maryland, the Lloyd family, the very same plantation on which famed abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass grew up before being sent to Baltimore.
I collaborated with the people of Unionville and my uncle Bernard Demczuk, an African American scholar at the George Washington University and preeminent historian on Unionville, and brought together first person narratives and historical documents to tell a deeper story of the town’s history—it’s enduring legacy rooted in faith, its close ties to the land, and its people's commitment to their ancestor's vision of a free, black community.
The photographs were printed through an etching process called intaglio that evokes an aesthetic of the past, bringing the history of the town to the viewer in a present day image. Printmaking was the first method for mass producing images, a process which would have been used during the early years of America before the invention and popularity of daguerreotypes.
As America continues to face its legacy of slavery and white supremacy, Unionville has become a symbol of black resilience. Naming the town Unionville, after the victorious Union army, in an area that was pro Confederate, was an act of defiance and a stance against the white oppression that they faced decades later through the failed Reconstruction era and the Jim Crowe laws, policies that are still affecting black communities today.