Tuesday, October 13, 2015
PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Poet the Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.
Don Tate has created a beautiful book here about a fascinating person. These kinds of stories are the kind of stories that I love to share with people because they are about people who didn't let their limiting circumstances limit them in following their dreams. George Moses Horton longed to be able to read from the time he was a young child. Thanks to his persistence and his observation skills he eventually taught himself to read (no small accomplishment in and of itself). Even after being separated from his family and having to spend most of his time working for his master, he found time to spend reading. George loved the sound of words and even before he learned to write he was making up poems in his head. His poems were so beautiful that when George started to sell farm produce at the local university and he recited some for students giving him a hard time, they started coming to him for poems to use with their sweethearts. Rather remarkable for a supposedly illiterate slave. George started making enough money to buy time from his master to spend doing what he loved. But he still wasn't free. Many of his poems dealt with his desires for freedom, at least until things changed in North Carolina and teaching slaves to read became a crime. It wasn't until George turned 66 and the Civil War ended that George finally became free.
This story is not only an important one but an inspiring one. A story about a man who found a way to develop his talents despite society's attempts to keep him down. Tate has told the story in beautiful prose with amazingly gorgeous illustrations that highlight George's spirit will not overlooking the horrible nature of slavery (the scene where George is separated from his family forever is heartbreaking). This is definitely one of my favorite picture books of the year.