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Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite
It is always a wonderful experience to discover (or rediscover) the life of a man who has dedicated himself to important things. We can be sure to find a compelling story while reading a biography like this. Margo Lee Williams' Born Missionary: The Islay Walden Story is one of these fascinating books. Lovers of poetry have probably already heard of Walden. Born a slave, he became the first African American to graduate from the New Brunswick Seminary and, despite being almost completely blind, he was interested and active in many fields. He was a poet and also a minister and educator. Moreover, he founded a school in New Brunswick. All his activities, as well as his legacy, are now minutely described in Born Missionary.
Born Missionary is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Reading the excerpts from Islay Walden's poems (which are inserted in the text) and learning about his work gave me an overview of what an extraordinary man he must have been. To give us a complete picture of him, Margo Lee Williams explores all aspects of Walden's life and work, discussing his family, education, interests, and even friendships and sympathies. In the Appendix, the most insatiably curious reader will find further information about Walden's ancestry. Thanks to the abundance of notes, the reader can be sure that Born Missionary is a carefully researched book. Anyone who wants to read the biography of a remarkable African American poet, minister, and educator of the 19th century will not be disappointed.