She was the youngest child of Alexander and Ollie O'Neal and grew up in an area known as the O'Neal Township, named after the slave-holders who originally owned the land. Her father had been a tenant farmer and eventually earned enough to buy a home and some land in the township. At age nine, Algia Mae learned the guitar from her mother, who was a singer and a guitarist expert in the Piedmont finger-picking style, and who often played at family gatherings, house parties, and services at the local congregation. From her father, who was a dancer, Algia Mae learned buck dancing and the two-step.
In 1950, Algia Mae married Millard R. Hinton. They subsequently moved to Raleigh, where they had seven children. The marriage lasted until 1965, when Millard Hinton was killed. At this point, Algia Mae moved with her children back to the O'Neal township and earned income as a field laborer. In the meantime, she played at house parties in Johnston County, North Carolina and for her children.
In 1978, Hinton met the folklorist Glenn Hinson, who arranged for her performance at the 1978 North Carolina Folklife Festival. She subsequently performed at the National Folk Festival, the University of Chicago Folk Festival, and in 1985 at an event called "Southern Roots" at Carnegie Hall that featured Delta and Piedmont blues artists.' In 1998 she made her only trip to Europe performing for the Blues Al Femminile series in Turin, Italy. She became known for her guitar playing and her buck dancing, often playing her guitar behind her head as she danced. In 1983 she demonstrated these skills in the Mike Seeger produced film Talking Feet; Solo Southern Dance - Flatfoot, Buck and Tap released by filmmaker Les Blanks in 1992.
In 1992, she received a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award from the North Carolina Arts Council. Currently, Algia Mae is a beneficiary of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, who also released her 1999 release, Honey Babe.
- Eight Hands and Holy Steps ; Early Dance Tunes and Songs Of Praise from North Carolina's Black Tradition: (LP compilation) featured performer - NC Museum of History, 1979
- Piedmont Folk Traditions: Audio Arts 009, 1985. 7" extended play.
- Honey Babe; Blues, Folk Tunes and Gospel from North Carolina: Hin-Tone 82929, 1996. CD.
- Honey Babe: Music Maker Series 91005-2, 1999. CD.