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.