Fifteen years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, a group of 14 former slaves founded a small Alabama community called Madison Park. Tight-knit and God-fearing, the community—populated mainly by descendants of that original founding group—has endured down to the present day.

Eric Motley, executive vice president at the Aspen Institute and a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, is profoundly thankful for having grown up in Madison Park. His memoir, Madison Park: A Place of Hope, recalls the townsfolk who taught and inspired him and the lifelong lessons he learned.

According to Motley, in an interview with CT, “I don’t think anyone in Madison Park, at church on Sundays or walking its streets during the week, can fail to be reminded of those who came before us, who made a promise to God that they would try to live out their lives in fulfillment of his will. Worshiping every Sunday with neighbors and seeing these shared values manifested in their thoughts, words, and deeds was very important to me at an early age. And this example has remained a guiding light throughout my life.”