(Note: Primary source material relating to George Moses Horton has been indexed in the Manuscripts Department. A list of poems included in the Southern Historical Collection may be viewed athttp://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/h/Horton,George_Moses.html. You may also search the Library's online catalog and the Documenting the American South site athttp://docsouth.unc.edu/ for published sources by and about George Moses Horton).
George Moses Horton was a slave of William Horton of Chatham County. He taught himself to read and began composing poems based on rhythms in the hymns of Charles Wesley. At the age of twenty he began visiting the University of North Carolina's campus, where he sold acrostics to students based upon the names of their sweethearts for twenty-five, fifty, or seventy-five cents. Horton bought his time from his owner through the sale of his poems and through wages he collected as a campus laborer.
Horton's literary efforts were encouraged by such individuals as novelist Caroline Lee Hentz, university presidents Joseph Caldwell and David L. Swain, and newspaperman Horace Greeley. On 8 April 1829, Horton had his first poem published-"Liberty and Slavery," the first known poem of a slave protesting his status. Later that same year Horton's The Hope of Libertybecame the first book published in the South by an African American.
From David L. Swain Papers #706
3 September 1844. George Moses Horton to David L. Swain. Horton writes to Mr. Garrison, an editor of a Boston paper, through President David L. Swain requesting assistance in publishing his work. Horton argues that his work can answer the question "whether a negro has any genious or not." Horton says that he "never had one day's schooling in all the course of my life," although he was "early fond of hearing people read." Horton learned his letters "by heart, and by that means, learned them in the book."
11 September 1853. George Moses Horton to Horace Greeley. Horton appeals to Greeley for "some assistance to remove the burden of hard servitude" and wants his "literary labour of the night . . . circulated throughout the whole world." The second page of the letter contains a poem.
Undated. George Moses Horton to David L. Swain. Horton describes himself as having been for some time "very anxious for some Gentleman in this place to buy me." He has selected Swain because of his location near the university, which will allow Horton to attend to his "business, which chiefly lies on the Hill." Horton estimates his worth at "$200[and]50 dollars" and writes that he is willing to serve to the best of his ability. Swain, however, did not buy him.
1836. Horton, George Moses. "The Pleasures of a College Life." Horton writes as a student lamenting the loss of college life: "With tears I leave these Academic bowers . . . and take my exit with a breast of pain."
Undated. Included are several of Horton's acrostics.
Lines composed by George Horton. 183
The pleasures of a College life
With tears I leave these Academic bowers
And cease to cull the scientific flowers
With tears I hail the fair succeeding train
And take my exit with a breast of pain
The "Fresh" may trace these wonders as they smile(?)
The stream of sciences like the river Nile
Reflecting mutual beauties as it flows
Which all the charms of "College life" disclose
This sacred current as it runs refines
Whilst Byron sings and Shakespear's "mirror shines"
First like a garden flowr did I rise
When on the College bloom I cast my eyes
I strove to emulate each smiling gem
Resolved to wear the classic Diadem
But when the Freshmans garden breeze was gone
Around me spread a vast extensive lawn
Twas there the muse of College life begun
Beneath the rays of eruditions sun
When study drew the mystic forms down
And like the lamp of Nature with renown
There first I heard the Epic thunder rool
And Homers lightning darted through my soul
Hard was the task to trace each devious line
Tho' Locke and Newton bid me soar and shine
I sank beneath the heat of Franklin's blaze
And struck the notes of philosophic praise
With timid thought I strove the best to stand
Reclining on a cultivated land
Which often spread beneath a college bower
And thus invoked the intellectual shower
E'n that fond sin on whose stately crown
The smile of Courts and States shall shed renown
Now far above the noise of Country strife
I frown upon the gloom of rustick life
Poetry written by