A Slave Poet
In the history of early African American literature, George Moses Horton occupies an indisputably prominent position. Like Phillis Wheatley, he was a slave poet whose verse earned him renown and respect, and while New Englander Wheatley was the first black writer to have a volume of poems published, Horton was the first southern black poet to have a volume of poems published in the United States. In addition, Horton’s was the first black poetic voice of protest against slavery. Horton was also the first black author to earn money from his writings. In fine, “the Colored Bard of North Carolina,” as he used to refer to himself occasionally, is a seminal figure in the annals of African American literature.
Horton was born a slave in 1797 on the plantation of William Horton in Northampton County, North Carolina. Of pure African parentage, a fact in which he took great pride, he was one of ten children. When Horton was three years old, his master sold his plantation and moved to a farm in Chatham County, one hundred miles away, taking young Horton and most of his other slaves with him. Horton would spend the next sixty-five years of his life on the farm, where he taught himself to read and discovered and developed his gift for writing poetry.
Growing up, Horton devoted what little spare time he had to teaching himself to read, and in doing so he acquired a deep interest in poetry. He soon recognized that he had a talent for “versifying”...
(The entire section is 490 words.)