Early African-American Poets

Who was the first Southern black to publish a collection of poetry?

George Moses Horton (1797–c. 1883) was the first Southern black to publish a collection of poetry. The Hope of Liberty, containing twenty-one poems, was published in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1829. He anticipated that proceeds from this volume would pay his way to Liberia. As with all his attempts at gaining freedom before Emancipation, this was unsuccessful. Somehow Horton managed to educate himself and establish a connection with the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He purchased his own time from his owners at twenty-five cents a day, later fifty cents. A tolerated character at the university, he seems to have earned part of his money by writing poems for undergraduates. In 1866 he had moved to Philadelphia and toward the end of his life wrote and published prose to earn a living. He also adapted Bible stories by changing names and events to fit the times. His works were found in different publications, since he sold them where he could. He may have returned South before he died around 1883.


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