I invite you to listen to an indepth interview: On with Leon Presents John F. Baker Jr. with host Dr. Leon Wilmer.
Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category
On March 7th I had a book signing at Borders in Nashville. The event was well attended by many family members and friends. I met several new cousins there. The event also brought together descendants of Wessyngton’s founder Joseph Washington, and African American descendants, whose ancestors came from the plantation. A group photograph was taken of both families.
The book tour in Atlanta went very well. On the first day of my trip I visited the home of Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper and presented her with an autographed copy of The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation. I was very honored to have Mrs. Cooper sign a copy of the book for me.
The second day of my tour I was interviewed about the book by Dr. Collette Hopkins, director of the National Black Arts Festival, who graciously accompained me to the book signing at Waldenbooks.
On the third day of the tour Dr. Opal Moore interviewed me at the Auburn Research Library. I later gave a presentation followed by a book signing.
The event was well attended and I met two new Washington cousins Jonathan and Jordan Terry who live in Atlanta. They were excited to find their names on the Washington family tree among more than 600 names.
My good friends Beverly Shelley and her daughter Kimberly attended the event. Their ancestors also came from Wessyngton.
My editor just told me that she received a letter from former President Bill Clinton. After thanking her for sending him the book, he wrote, “it was wonderful!” I will certainly place that letter in a place of honor in my home.
Please take a look at the Black Heritage video with Anne Holt at Wessyngton. It aired on February 22nd and 24th.
I invite you to watch a short video in which I describe my research:
I invite you to watch a short video about the DNA research I conducted:
As Oprah Winfrey and other African Americans have often stated, with the election of Barack Obama, it is finally time for African Americans to embrace their past, and to learn who they are. My research and my book can give the history that would be a building block for a strong today and tomorrow. I tell the stories of my ancestors and 274 African Americans who were enslaved on a tobacco plantation near Nashville. And the stories are the stories of real people based on documents and interviews with descendants. What comes through are stories of survival, of family, and of community. President Obama stated that one of the themes of his inauguration would be “coming together.” My research is an example of that phenomenon. Descendants of the plantation owners shared their photographs and remembrances with me; one of them sponsored some of the many DNA tests I conducted.
Ever since the victory of Barack Obama, people ask me what the Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation would have thought about this historic event. More than 30 years ago when I started researching the lives of the 274 African Americans enslaved on the plantation, I never imagined such a question. When I interviewed more than 25 descendants of Wessyngton slaves, I never thought to ask them that question. When I spent hours talking with Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper, the 107-year-old lady from Atlanta whom then President-elect Obama spoke about so eloquently in his acceptance speech, she and I never spoke about that possibility in her lifetime. Yet here it is. My great great grandparents, Emanuel and Henny Washington, were born on the plantation and remained there until their deaths in the 20th century. Other families remained on the plantation or the general area. Many of their descendants still reside here. They understood the power of prayer, family and community to overcome whatever obstacles they faced. They saw their secret prayers answered when they were emancipated in 1865 after generations of slavery. This no doubt seemed impossible, yet they kept the faith and ensured their children that one day God would deliver them from slavery. I think the former slaves may not have been as surprised as some of us today that we would have an African American president and a first lady whose ancestors were once enslaved.