George Moses Horton, Poet Entrepreneur

The Crafting Freedom Materials Project

This short video demonstrates how enslaved poet George Moses Horton earned a living by writing custom-designed love poems for male university students to use in their courtship of young women. In this video, we see Horton deliver a poem to his client, a male student with the surname Torrance. Horton has written this poem upon Mr. Torrance's request and it is intended for the young lady Mr. Torrance is pursuing. The acrostic poem is formed using words that begin with those letters in the name of Horton's client's love interest, "Mary McLean." Mary McLean receives the poem, reads it and assumes it was written by Torrance. In the last scene we learn how successful the poem was in wooing Miss McLean and how Horton is compensated--or not compensated--for his efforts. In addition to using this video with lessons on George Moses Horton, it can be used in instruction that treats nineteenth-century African American history, American poetry, and entrepreneurship.

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