Horton Residence Hall on UNC’s South Campus is named after the poet.
Patrick Horn, associate director at the Center for the Study of the American South, presented about George Moses Horton and his complicated relationship with a white writer in the Chapel Hill area, Caroline Lee Hentz.
Horn said he was asked to speak by the Chapel Hill Historical Society after a few members attended his Literary Tar Heel Tour through the UNC Visitors’ Center.
“As a lover of literature and English major, I am excited any time people want to learn about books and writers, and I think it’s an important part of our history that I wish more attention was paid to,” Horn said.
George Moses Horton could not read and write initially, but Hentz transcribed Horton’s poetry and became his teacher.
Hentz was a long-time champion of the South and supporter of slavery, but she advocated for Horton’s freedom.
Horn said the writers came together despite having very different life experiences.
Marion Horton, a descendent of George Moses Horton, attended the event with his wife. He said he was not aware of his relation to George Moses Horton until he was around 30 years old.
“It all started when my son was in grammar school, his class was given an assignment to do a family tree,” he said.
He said his son’s project and Ancestry.com helped his family learn about their relative. Most of his research on his family history came after he and his wife retired. They were then able to discover George Moses Horton and his poetry.
Mary Andersen, a member of the Chapel Hill Historical Society, said the event was important for people to learn about writers from the area.
“I think people should know about the history of the community that they live in,” she said.
Horn said the event was important because it gives our society a glimpse into a time when people were enslaved.
Horn said the relationship between Horton and Hentz is important because it tells a little piece of University history.
“What parts of our history get memorialized and what parts are easily forgotten?” he said.
“I’m really happy when people ask those questions.”