Nancy Cunningham Luckie and her husband, Solomon, were two of the less than 40 free Black people who lived in Atlanta (population 9,554) at the start of the American Civil War. Solomon was a barber. He worked at a shop in the Atlanta Hotel. Nancy and Solomon were free, but they lived under harsh local laws meant to control the free Black community. Laws restricted the movement of free Black people around the city, especially at night. They were also barred from the facilities and businesses that white people used. In order to live in the city, they also had to have a white person sponsor them and may have been required to pay a $1,000 fee.
Nancy and Solomon had three children. Despite the oppressive laws they lived under, they enjoyed a successful and financially stable life until the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. On August 9, Solomon was speaking with a friend on the corner of Whitehall and Alabama Streets when shrapnel from a Union Army shell hit him. Solomon was rushed to Atlanta Medical College, where doctors amputated his leg, but he died a few hours later. Nancy was left a widow with three young children.
This collection of images shows members of the Luckie family. The existence of these photos indicate that the family was wealthy enough to have professional portraits taken. The images stand as a unique visual record of the small free Black community in Civil War-era Atlanta.