|Margo Lee Williams|
ASHEBORO – The unique history and impact of an African American community in southwestern Randolph County is the focus of historian Margo Lee Williams’s new book, From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina.
Williams will talk about the history and people of Strieby, and sign copies of her award-winning book, at 2 p.m. Saturday, February 18, at the Asheboro Public Library. Her appearance is sponsored by the Randolph Room, the library’s local history and genealogy department.
Hill Town grew in the 1840s around the homeplace of Edward (Ned) Hill, a free person of color, and his wife Priscilla, a freed slave. In the 1880s, the community established a school, a Congregational church and a U.S. Post Office.
Renamed Strieby after a church leader, the community flourished. Strieby was designated as a Local Cultural Heritage Site by the Randolph County Historic Landmark Preservation Commission in 2013, based on Williams’s nomination.
Central to the community’s history is the Rev. Islay Walden who, freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War, nearly blind and almost illiterate, walked to Washington, D.C., to gain an education and seek treatment for his poor eyesight.
He returned 10 years later as an esteemed academic, ordained minister and nationally known poet. His mission was to establish a school in Hill Town with the support of the American Missionary Association.
Willliams’s book documents Walden’s story and the continued development of education in the community. It also provides an exhaustive genealogy of Strieby families, profiles notable members of the community and takes a look at Strieby today.
The book received the 2016 Marsha M. Greenlee History Award from the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the 2016 Historical Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians. It grew out of Williams’s research into her Lassiter family ancestors of the Lassiter Mill area in Randolph County, and picks up where her first book, Miles Lassiter, an Early African American Quaker, left off.
Williams, who lives in Silver Springs, MD, operates a genealogical research firm, Personal Prologue. She holds masters degrees in sociology and religious education.