The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: Poet by Don Tate
Remarkable is indisputably the operative word here. Born into slavery, George Moses Horton didn’t become a free man until he was 66. Even enslaved, Horton managed to teach himself to read – by eavesdropping on the master’s children’s lessons, then studying a book of songs and an old spelling book whenever he could.
He fed his love of words by composing – and much later penning on paper when he learned to write – his exquisite poetry. He sold his verses on the University of North Carolina campus to lovestruck young men, and then to newspapers – including the first African American owned publication, Freedom’s Journal. He eventually earned enough to pay his master for writing time away from the back-breaking fields.
Not only were Horton’s anti-slavery compositions the first published by a slave, but he also penned two books before the Civil War ended: “Words loosened the chains of bondage long before his last day as a slave.” He survived almost another two decades in freedom with further literary accomplishments to celebrate and relish.
So remarkable – inspiring, impressive, significant, outstanding, stupendous – was Horton’s poetic life, award-winning author/illustrator Don Tate broke his own cardinal rule to create this, his latest title: “When I first began illustrating children’s books,” he writes in his ending “Author’s Note,” “I decided that I would not work on stories about slavery. I had many reasons … [but] in all honesty, though, what I wasn’t admitting to myself was that I was ashamed of the topic.” Thankfully, Tate “had a change of heart” for all the right reasons: “… there was .. much to be proud about.” Amen to that!
“In creating this book, it was my goal to present the topic of slavery as more than just an uncomfortable word. I wanted readers to know who George Moses Horton was, and to demonstrate his relevance in their lives today.” From resilience to tenacity, from dedication to admiration, Tate proves that – far beyond skin color – Horton was and still remains a remarkable hero today and for generations to come.