John Baker, Junior and the Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: From Genealogy to Art


Brandon Barker (Indiana University)

In 1860, middle Tennessee’s Wessyngton Plantation was the largest tobacco plantation in the United States. John Baker, Junior—whose great-great grandparents were among the 274 African Americans enslaved there—has spent the past four decades doing genealogical and historical research on the people of Wessyngton. In 2009, he published the most complete study of a Tennessee plantation: The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of my Family's Journey to Freedom. This talk presents the movement from John Baker’s textual, genealogical representations of Wessyngton’s history to his artful presentation of that work in a variety of performance contexts, including guided tours at Wessyngton (which remains an operating farm), family reunions, the establishment of Wessyngton’s African American Cemetery, museum exhibits, and myriad public lectures.

Part of 07-05 Maintaining, Reshaping, and Recentering Periphery in Community Spaces [hybrid], Saturday, October 15, 8:00 am–10:00 am