John F. Baker Jr. is the
author of The Washingtons of Wessyngton
Plantation: Stories of My Family’s
Journey to Freedom. He discovered
the story of his ancestors quite by accident when he saw a photograph of four
former slaves, entitled “Black Tennesseans,” in a seventh grade social studies
book. Later he learned that two of them
were his grandmother’s grandparents.
Baker has lived his entire life just a few miles from Wessyngton
Plantation in a town populated by hundreds of descendants of its former slaves. For more than thirty years, he has been
researching, conducting interviews, and collecting photographs and information
about them and the hundreds of others enslaved on the plantation.
Baker has written
extensively on Wessyngton and the lives of African Americans there. The National Historical Home submission,
Families and Cabins: Archaeological and Historical Investigations at Wessyngton
Plantation included his paper, which earned him a national history award from
the American Association for State and Local History.