Orangeburg native receives national book awards

Dr. Walter B. Curry Jr., founder of Renaissance Publications LLC, received the 2023 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist in two categories: African American Non-Fiction & Regional Non-Fiction Southeast for his book The Awakening: The Seawright-Ellison Family Saga, Vol.1, A Narrative History.

The Awakening is the first volume in a narrative history about the descendants of two families that share a common ancestor, Martha Kitchings Seawright Ellison, born into slavery in 1849 in Aiken County. The book documents the beginnings of the family saga through Martha’s life during slavery, the Civil War, the Reconstruction era, and family life in Aiken and Orangeburg counties and beyond.

The book also includes the stories of:

  • Sawyerdale native Floster L. Ellison, Jr., who during the Civil Rights Movement became the co-founder of the Palmetto State Barbers Association, the first African American barber inspector in the state and the first director of social services of Crafts-Farrow State Hospital (née South Carolina Lunatic Asylum) in 1965.
  • Tommy Ellison, whose experiences as a youth singing on the children choir at Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church, inspired him to pursue a legendary career in gospel music, affectionately known by his fans as “Mr. Superstar of Gospel”.

Curry is a native of Orangeburg. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from South Carolina State University and has earned graduate degrees in education, including a doctorate in curriculum & instruction from Argosy University, Sarasota, Florida.

To purchase Dr. Curry’s books and learn more about his work, visit or email him at

The National Indie Excellence® Awards celebrate the analog book form as a vital sector of our industry. Recognizing excellence in all aspects of the final presentation, NIEA champions self-publishers and independent publishers who produce the highest quality books. Established in 2005, NIEA’s entrants are meticulously judged by experts from various disciplines of the industry including publishers, editors, authors, and book designers. Winning and Finalist titles are determined on the basis of superior written content coupled with the various elements that comprise all the information in a published product. Jurors analyze titles across a spectrum of standards and metrics reaching a final consensus after their review. To view the winners and finalists, go to