Walter Curry, a local genealogist, is hoping to increase awareness of black history in Aiken County by studying his own ancestors.

Curry's book "Thompson Family: Untold Stories from the Past (1830-1960)" details stories of Curry's ancestors from Salley, South Carolina. The book is a "compilation of tales" that touch on many themes of black history, according to a press release.

"This book contributes to the richness of African-American history and heritage in Aiken County, especially in the Wagener-Salley area," Curry said. "That particular area has been largely ignored in the promotion of African-American history and heritage within the county."

Curry said he became interested in his family history as he grew up hearing tales about his ancestors from his mother, Cheryl Seawright Curry. As he researched the Thompson family, he started to unearth stories that were remarkable, unique and sometimes tragic.

Milledge Thompson, a slave, saw his family broken apart when his wife was sold at an auction in Charleston, but later gained his freedom through working for wages and with help from local white residents. Lavinia Thompson served as a private and a cook for the Confederacy. Phillip Thompson, another ancestor, rose from a sharecropper to a prominent soil conservationist in Aiken.

"I hope that my book encourages African-Americans throughout the county to explore their genealogical roots because genealogy is critical in understanding the nature of a collective group of people, and of direct kinships known as 'family,'" Curry said.

Curry is a member of multiple societies and organizations in Aiken County, such as the Aiken County Historical Society and the Aiken-Barnwell Genealogy Society. He is a major advocate for the Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken.

Curry will have a book signing for "Thompson Family: Untold Stories from the Past (1830-1960)" from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Aiken County Historical Museum. The museum is at 433 Newberry St. S.W.

Curry said that 15 percent of the book sales will go toward the society.

The cost of the book is $25 and it will also be available on on Oct. 5. For additional questions, contact Dr. Walter Curry at 803-404-2117 or send an email to

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.