Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Addison Scurlock (1883-1964) moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1900. He founded his photography studio at 900 U Street, NW, in 1911 and soon established himself as the preeminent African American photographer in the nation’s capital.

Nearly a century’s worth of photographs from the renowned Scurlock Studio are compiled in this handsome book designed to celebrate the legacy of a noted family of photographers and to present a vivid portrait of black Washington, D.C., in all its guises—its challenges and its victories, its dignity and its determination.

It features more than 100 images created by one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington.

Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing into the 1990s, Addison Scurlock, followed by his sons, Robert and George, used their cameras to document and celebrate a community unique in the world. They captured weddings, baptisms, graduations, sporting events, civil protests, high-society affairs and visiting dignitaries. It was for portraiture, however, that the Scurlocks became renowned.

Among the portraits’ subjects are luminaries such as Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington, Ralph Bunche, Mary McLeod Bethune and Muhammad Ali. Many of the photographs show Washington as the mecca for leaders in African American business, culture and higher education long before New York City’s Harlem. They depict successful businesses such as the Underdown Delicatessen, prominent churches such as the Lincoln Temple, myriad community and leisure events such as a summer outing at Highland Beach in Maryland and sporting events at Howard University’s Griffith Stadium. The images are drawn from the Scurlock Studio Collection, preserved since 1997 at the Archives Center in the American History Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

The book features illuminating essays from 25 contributors. Highly recommended.


Picturing the Promise: The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington
Hardcover:224 pages
11 x 9.3 inches
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
ISBN: 978-1588342621
Buy on Amazon