Lyn Reviews The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation
The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom by John F. Baker Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I bought this autographed book in the museum store at the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s estate, near Nashville, TN. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was that the author told of family relationships of those he interviewed but he should have included a fold-out family tree so I could keep them all straight. The publisher may have nixed this as an extra cost. Too bad.
the book was an amazing story of a antebellum white family and the black families they owned on the main plantation and several satellite ones in TN during the first half of the 19th century. Compared to other slave narratives, the white owners come off as people who took the responsiblity to treat their slaves humanely. But since the whole system was a travesty, they failed.
However, strange anamolies appeared. The master trained his acknowledged son by a young slave girl to be his valet and the son was treated as “almost family” by the Washingtons. That must have been odd since most children of this kind of alliance were never acknowledged or kept so close to the family. (This son committed suicide long after freedom, another unexplainable event.)
Also after the war, the white family had artists paint portraits of some of the former slaves and hung those portraits in the foyer of their home. I can’t figure that one out.
This is an intriguing story of a large entertwined family in special circumstances in the context of slavery, of the Civil War and then after freedom.
Utterly fascinating and enlightening. A complex evolving movie picture of slavery, war and freedom.
Here’s a fascinating video with the author John P Baker
Here is a website about this book and the author. http://www.wessyngton.com/