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 Brunswick, New Jersey. Along the way, he would publish two volumes of poetry and found two schools for African American children. Now ordained, he would return to his home community, where he would found a Congregational church (today called Strieby Congregation U. C. C. 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.
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