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This well-detailed book about an African-American family's ancestry originated when Baker was in seventh grade and saw a photograph of four former slaves in his social studies text, sparking a curiosity that led him to spend more than 30 years researching his relatives. The author, a recipient of a national award from the American Association for State and Local History, also traces the story of Joseph Washington, owner of the Wessyngton Plantation in Tennessee and a distant cousin of the first American president, working the 274 slaves to build the largest tobacco concern in the nation. Although the stories of the Washingtons, Terrys and Cheathams are not presented with dramatic flair, Baker captures the arduous daily grind of life in slavery and later Jim Crow with a steely precision, all because he puts a human face on every birth, death and struggle. Baker should be truly commended for his tenacity in interviewing and acquiring letters, diaries and birth records. This is a solid document of human caring, historic wisdom and perseverance of several African-American families pressed to the limit and surviving with all of the lessons of life intact. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.