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Chatham County Historical Association

Preserving and sharing the history of Chatham County North Carolina

George Moses Horton's Life in Poetry Program and Annual Meeting

  • 11 Feb 2024
  • 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Historic Chatham County Courthouse, Pittsboro

~ George Moses Horton's Life in Poetry ~

George Moses Horton’s remarkable accomplishments are beginning to receive the attention they deserve. Self-taught, Horton published two books of poetry while enslaved, and a third book after he gained his freedom, in 1865. During decades of enslavement, his poems were printed and reprinted in newspapers in North Carolina and elsewhere, and he made a substantial income writing poems on commission, primarily for white students, faculty, and others associated with UNC-Chapel Hill.  

At our February 11 program, Dr. Eliza Richards, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill, who has undertaken an extensive study of Horton and his work, will provide an overview of Horton’s writings and the insight they provide into slavery, the Civil War, aspects of life in the antebellum south, and, as she notes, "the limits and possibilities of poetic expression for a writer dedicated to art under conditions of severe constraint." She will trace Horton’s life--most of which was spent enslaved in Chatham County--from his own account of teaching himself how to read, write, and compose poetry, through his travels with the 9th Michigan Cavalry at the end of the Civil War, to his time in Philadelphia and probable disillusioned departure from the United States in the late 1860s.

Dr. Richards specializes in American Poetry before 1900. Along with teaching, she explores how poetry and social forces interact. She is currently working on the first critical edition of Horton’s collected works (forthcoming from UNC Press): the edition will include all known manuscripts and published writings by Horton; many of these works have not been previously transcribed or published. The volume will include her annotations, grounded in historical research, in order to make a case for Horton’s importance as a remarkable American writer whose work has been unjustly neglected.

We are delighted to have Dr. Richards share her insights into the life of George Moses Horton with us here in Chatham County. Her presentation will be from 2:00 until 3:00pm and a brief annual meeting will follow.

The program is free and everyone is welcome.

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Chatham County Historical Association  ~   ~  PO Box 93  ~  Pittsboro NC 27312  ~  919-542-6222  ~  

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