The exhibit Slaves and Slaveholders of Wessyngton Plantation at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville which opened from February 11th and ran through August 31st, 2014, had nearly 70,000 visitors!  The exhibit will travel throughout the state starting in the spring of 2015. 
The documentary Wessyngton Plantation: A Family's Road to Freedom has been watched by several hundred thousand viewers across the country.
The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation was nominated for the Oprah Book Club selection in the Historical Books genre in 2010.
Simon & Schuster submitted The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation for the National Book award in nonfiction.
Simon & Schuster submitted The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation for the Pulitzer Prize in letters.
Great Reviews
“This is a solid document of human caring, historic wisdom and perseverance of several African American families pressed to the limit and surviving with all of the lessons of life intact.” --Publishers Weekly
 in “A sweeping look at nearly 200 years on a Southern plantation, told by a descendant…Riveting, and the importance of Baker’s research can’t be overstated…Enriching, deeply personal history.” --Kirkus Reviews 


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A descendant of Wes­syngton slaves, John F. Baker Jr., has written the most accessible and ex­citing work of African American history since Roots.

When Baker was in the seventh grade, he saw a photograph of four former slaves in his social studies textbook. When he learned that two of them were his grand­mother’s grand­parents, Emanuel and Henny Washington, he began the lifelong research project that would become The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation.

This fruit of more than thirty years of archival and field research and DNA testing spans 250 years. Baker has not only written his own family’s story but also includes the history of hundreds of slaves and their descendants, now numbering in the thousands throughout the United States. More than 100 rare photographs and portraits of African Americans who were slaves on the plantation bring this compelling American history to life.

Founded in 1796 by Joseph Washington, a distant cousin of America’s first president, Wessyngton Plantation covered 15,000 acres and held 274 slaves whose labor made it the largest tobacco plantation in America. Unusually, The Washingtons only sold two slaves, so the slave families remained intact for generations. The Washington family owned the plantation until 1983; their family papers include birth registers from 1795-1860, letters, diaries, and more. Baker also conducted dozens of interviews─three of his subjects were more than one hundred years old─and discovered caches of historic photographs and paintings.

A groundbreaking work of history and a deeply personal journey of discovery, The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation is an uplifting story of survival and family that gives fresh insight into the institution of slavery and its ongoing legacy today.

— Atria Books Fall Catalog 2008



John Baker


  • Celebrates 35+ Years of Genealogical and Historical research.
  • Specializes in American and African American genealogy from the Colonial period to the Civil War and beyond.
  • Has researched more than 11,000 documents to trace the ancestry of more than 300 African Americans enslaved on one of the largest plantations in America and the plantation owners.