Questions for readers of The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation
Suggested Readers Guide
1. John F. Baker Jr. researched his family’s history for more than thirty years. The result: his book, The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation. Why do you believe he dedicated so much of his life, time and energy to this project?
2. Baker recognized the importance of the Oral Tradition and Oral History, which as he states, “gives voice to a history that otherwise would be forgotten.” Of the persons whom he interviewed, which ones do you believe, provided him with the most information and/or most encouragement with his research?
3. John wrote about many who lived on Wessyngton Plantation, the descendants of the enslaved and the slave owners. Which of these persons stood out for you; which of their stories did you enjoy reading?
4. How significant for you, are the visuals in Baker’s The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation:
A. The family portraits, pictures of family gatherings and important events?
B. The pictures of structures on the plantation like the mansion and the slave cabins.
C. The documents like the slave bills of sale, the maps and the DNA result charts?
5. Consider whether Baker would have been able to complete his research and write
The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation IF:
A. The Washington slave owners had not kept meticulous records of the births, marriages, deaths, and the buying/selling of slaves on Wessyngton Plantation?
B. Baker’s family members and others had not had longevity, living long enough and sharing their stories with him.
C. Descendants of the Wessyngton Plantation owners had not been willing to share documents and information with him and archiving their family records?
6. Life for the enslaved on Wessyngton Plantation was typical of other southern plantations in some ways; yet, it was unique in other ways. What made Wessyngton Plantation distinctive?
7. DNA testing is a fairly recent phenomena used by African Americans as a tool to research our ancestry. Discuss why and how Baker used it and how he revealed the results in The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation.
8. Researching your family and tracing our ancestry can be a difficult and time- consuming task. How could reading Baker’s story in The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation assist and encourage you to begin your own project?
9. If you should decide to take on this project, what steps should you take and how would you begin?
10. Why would you recommend The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation to others?