Born Missionary: The Islay Walden Story

In 1879, Islay Walden, born enslaved and visually impaired, returned to North Carolina after a twelve-year odyssey in search of an education.  It was a journey that would take him from emancipation in Randolph County, North Carolina to Washington, D. C., where he earned a teaching degree from Howard University, then to the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, in New Jersey. Along the way, he published two volumes of poetry and founded two schools for African American children. Once  ordained, he returned Randolph County, where he founded a Congregational church (Strieby Church) and common school. Despite an early death at age forty, he would leave an educational and spiritual legacy that endures to this day. Born Missionary uses Walden’s own words as well as reports from newspapers and church publications to follow his journey from enslavement to teacher, ordained minister, and community leader.  

Winner of the 2021 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award from the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP). 

About The Author

Margo Lee Williams is a graduate of Marquette University, and has her M. A. in Sociology from Hunter College, and an M. A. in Religious Education from The Catholic University of America. Williams is a frequent lecturer for the Family History Centers in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area and a former editor of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. She is currently the Deputy Registrar for the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage and the 2021 recipient of the Board Chairperson’s Service Award.  Born Missionary is her third book.  

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