Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name by Ann Nixon Cooper

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

On Tuesday November 4, 2008, President Barack Obama reflected on the life of Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper: “she’s seen throughout her century in America─the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told we can’t; and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.”

Empowered and energized by this history-making presidential campaign, Mrs. Cooper told her story in her own voice.  A Century and Some Change is the portrait of an American who lived a rewarding and culturally rich life.

Mrs. Cooper was raised in Nashville in the home of her aunt-in-law Joyce Washington Nixon, who was born a slave at Wessyngton Plantation during the last days of the Civil War. I  had the honor of interviewing Mrs. Cooper and recording her memories in my book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation, which she mentioned in her book. 

A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name will be released on January 5, 2010 by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Mrs. Cooper passed away on December 21st at her home, nineteen days short of her 108th birthday.

Order A Century and Some Change by clicking the icon of her book cover


Ann Nixon Cooper, President Obama, and Washington Descendants

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Personal connections between the descendants of the Washington family and Ann Nixon Cooper  have been renewed thanks to President Barack Obama’s speech on the night of his historic election. You may read the complete story:

Radio Interview:The African American Literary Review

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I invite you to listen to an indepth interview: The African American Literary Review Presents an Evening With John F. Baker Jr.  with host Tracey Ricks Foster.

The Meaning of the Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

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.

The Inauguration and African Americans from Wessyngton Plantation

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

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.