The magazine of the photo-essay
November/December 2023 issue
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
We Sort of People The last descendants of a little-known American clan of multi-ethnic origin
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 belonged to 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, white and 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 the Wesorts 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
Lonie's neighbor with frying pan, Route 301, Bel Alton, Maryland, 2003 @Henry Horenstein
Crabs for sale, old Route 301, Bel Alton, Maryland, 2006. @Henry Horenstein
Portrait of Lonie circa 1940s on her mini furnace, Bel Anton, Maryland, 1997. @Henry Horenstein
Viola and Lonie at the church picnic, Saint Ignatius church, Port Tobacco, Maryland, 1997 @Henry Horenstein
Leslie, lounging in the baseball field behind Proctor’s Inn, Waldorf, Maryland,1997 @Henry Horenstein
Abandoned outhouse, behind Lonie’s house, Bel Alton, Maryland,1997 @Henry Horenstein
Fisherman with his catch, Chapel Point State Park, Maryland, 2006 @Henry Horenstein
Interior, Wheeler's barbershop and country cafe, Bel Alton, Maryland,1997 @Henry Horenstein
Hold on, Proctor's Inn,Waldorf, Marylan @Henry Horenstein
Skye, Bobby, and Vinnie, in Cinderella’s backyard, Temple Hills, Maryland, 1997. @Henry Horenstein
Ruth at home, Northeast D.C., 2003 @Henry Horenstein
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