Archive for January, 2009

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.


Finally after 30 years

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009


Well, it has been 30 years, and now the date is here. I’m very excited. I can’t wait to go to the bookstore and see my book on the shelf. Why did it take me 30 years? In addition to tracing my own ancestry, I have traced the history of each family associated with Wessyngton Plantation, including the owners of the plantation. This involved examining tens of thousands of documents, census records, wills, bible records, reading hundreds of letters, and interviewing descendants of the slaves and the plantation owners.