“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
photographs by Henry Horenstein
Henry Horenstein and Leslie Tucker began working together in the summer of 1997, when she invited him to Maryland to shoot the mysterious, little-known Wesort clan. “We sorts are different from you sorts.“During the mid-twentieth century the Wesorts were a kind of urban myth among black people in Washington, DC. They were known by a single name—Proctors. They looked white but didn’t claim any race. They kept to themselves. Many belongedto the Catholic Church.The Wesorts had done something odd in America. They had stepped out of race. They sustained this status with constant intermarriages. Three races—black, whiteand native american—combined in to one family with cousins making dozens for centuries.
They mixed, mated and migrated in between whites and blacks from the earliest documented records of the nation. While the project started as a genealogical search for a family whose roots stretched back to the founding of the first Catholic colony, it grew into a mystery about the origins of race in America, then became a race against time as theWesorts and their descendants disappeared and died. If race itself is the sorting of humans into shared physical qualities,where did the colorfully eyed, blond, pale-skinned Wesorts fit in America’s rigid categories?While Henry photographed the last generation of Proctors and their disappearing world, Leslie recorded the conversations she had with the wise women of her family. A living archive emerges, with voices that portray the complex realities of their lives in their own words, as seen through their eyes. This family history is elastic, moldable, and often lost. It isn’t necessarily permanent or durable or evencorrect. Much like the graves of Leslie’s ancestors—which have no markers at all—are simply there waiting for someone to find them again.
August 15th Celebration at Saint Ignatius Church, Port Tobacco, Maryland, 1997 @Henry Horenstein