George Moses Horton

African-American Literature

George Moses Horton (1798—1883) was the first African-American man to publish a book in the South. That book, The Hope of Liberty (1829) also made Horton one of the first to protest his slavery in poetry. Born into slavery in Northhampton County, North Carolina, bondage did not prevent Horton from learning how to read and write and become a poet. Indeed, he was a professional poet, for he supported himself in large part by poems composed for students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he lived on the income from his writings, and odd jobs through an agreement whereby he paid his owner a certain sum each week for his own services. With the publication of his book, Horton hoped he could make money to purchase his freedom, but the returns from neither that book nor a later one, Poetical Works of George Moses Horton (1845) were sufficient to make that dream come true. Not until the Union Army moved through North Carolina in 1865 did Horton become a free man; he then published another another book in Raleigh, The Naked Genius (1865), and moved to Philadelphia. What he did or how he lived in Philadelphia is not known. George Moses Horton’s poetry displays a keen ear for rhythm and a circumspect understanding of human nature. His poetry explores faith, love, and slavery while celebrating the rural beauty of the plantation on which Horton spent much of his life.


The Art of a Poet


Division of an Estate