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George Moses Horton was born a slave on a North Carolina tobacco plantation. During his teenage years, he taught himself to read and began creating poetry. Unable to write, he spoke his poetry to crowds at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Popular with University of North Carolina students (who would often pay Horton for his poems and lend him books), he caught the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz (author and wife of a UNC professor). With her help, Horton’s collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty, was published in 1829. With its publishing, Horton became the first black man to publish a book in the South. With his earnings, Horton hoped to buy his freedom, but his attempts were repeatedly denied despite public support. Following the Civil War, after almost 70 years a slave, Horton settled in Philadelphia for at least 17 years of freedom before his death in the early 1880s.
Farewell! if ne'er I see thee more,
Though distant calls my flight impel,
I shall not less thy grace adore,
So friend, forever fare thee well.
Farewell! forever, did I say?
What, never more thy face to see?
Then take the last fond look to-day,
And still to-morrow think of me.
Farewell! alas, the tragic sound
Has many a tender bosom torn;
While desolation spread around,
Deserted friendship left to mourn.
Farewell! awakes the sleeping tear,
The dormant rill from sorrow's eye,
Express'd from one by nature dear,
Whose bosom heaves the latent sigh.
Farewell! is but departure's tale,
When fond association ends,
And fate expands her lofty sail,
To show the distant flight of friends.
Alas! and if we sure must part,
Far separated long to dwell,
I leave thee with a broken heart,
So friend, forever, fare thee well.
I leave thee, but forget thee never,
Words cannot my feeling tell,
'Fare thee well, and if forever,
Still forever fare thee well.' "Farewell to Frances"
George Moses Horton