George Moses Horton

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For other people named George Horton, see George Horton (disambiguation).
A plaque in North Carolina commemorating the life of George Moses Horton.

George Moses Horton (1798–1884) was an African-American poet and the first African American poet to be published in the Southern United States. His book was published in 1828 while he was still a slave; he remained a slave until he was emancipated late in the Civil War.


Horton was born into slavery on William Horton's plantation in Northampton County, North Carolina. As a very young child, he and several family members were moved to a tobacco farm in rural Chatham County, when his owner relocated. Learning poetry and snippets of literature through clandestine means as a teen, Horton composed poems in his mind. As a young adult, Horton delivered produce to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he composed and recited poems for students. Some of his compositions were transcribed by students, and Horton also composed poems by commission. In 1829, his poems were published in a collection titled The Hope of Liberty, which was intended to raise funds for his release from slavery.[1] The book was funded by the politically-liberal journalist, Joseph Gales. His poems were often anti-slavery. By 1832, he had learned to write for himself, having learned with the aid of a professor's wife.

In 1845, he released another book of poetry, The Poetical Works of George M. Horton, The Colored Bard of North-Carolina, To Which Is Prefixed The Life of the Author, Written by Himself. The moniker, “Colored Bard of North-Carolina," was coined by his new publisher.

Horton gained the admiration of North Carolina Governor John Owen, influential newspapermen Horace Greeley and William Lloyd Garrison, along with numerous Northern abolitionists.

George Moses Horton's signature


Horton's poetic style was typical of contemporary European poetry. He wrote both sonnets and ballads, and his earlier works focused on his life in servitude. His later works, especially those made after his emancipation, were more rural and pastoral.


Horton had written about his interest in the new nation of Liberia, and a few of the abolitionist papers made calls to raise enough money so that Horton could see his dream of life in Liberia come true. Despite these efforts, Horton would never live to see Liberia.

Horton was emancipated by the Union Army in 1865, at the age of 68. He moved to Pennsylvania as a freeman where he continued to write poetry for local newspapers. In Philadelphia, he wrote Sunday school stories on behalf of friends who lived in the city.


In 2006, UNC Chapel Hill named a newly built dorm for George Moses Horton; it was constructed on the site of Hinton James North.


  1. ^ Brown, Sterling (1937). Negro Poetry and Drama. Washington, DC: Westphalia Press. p. 6. ISBN 1935907549. 

External links[edit]

<> Williamson, Samuel H., and Louis P. Cain. "Measuring Worth - Measuring the Value of a Slave.