Posted by: Ashley | February 14, 2012

North Carolina’s Cyrano de Bergerac

Love in the Archives” and #loveheritage are our themes on the blog today as we point you towards love themed materials in our collections. A couple of days ago I asked Debbi Blake, head of our Public Services Branch, to think about what kind of romantic archival items she had run across in our collections. Almost immediately she reminded me of our George Moses Horton materials – “a bit of Cyrano de Bergerac going on there,” she said.

Acrostic poem by George Moses Horton

Acrostic poem by George Moses Horton; learn more on our Educational Resources website.

She’s right, of course. George Moses Horton was a slave who became well-known for writing, reciting, and selling acrostic poems to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The acrostics featured the names of students’ sweethearts and were used by the students to woo the young ladies in question although, as materials in our collection prove, their efforts were not always successful. Horton used the money that he made selling poetry and fruit at the university to buy his time from his master at 25 cents (and later 50 cents) per day.

As a slave Horton was not legally allowed to marry, which makes his writing love poetry on behalf of young men who could even more tragic.   However, in 1829, Horton published a book entitled The Hope of Liberty –  it was the first book published in the south by an African-American.

A few years ago one of our summer interns, Carrie Misenheimer, created a Educational Resources website for us and one of the subjects she focused on was George Moses Horton. The students side of the website includes a brief description of Horton’s life and various items from our collections related to him. The teachers side includes lesson plans on Horton; I encourage you to check out both sides if you have time, particularly if you are a teacher in North Carolina.

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