Tate paints a portrait of a North Carolina man who pursued his passion for language through long years of enslavement.
Nothing about the life of a slave could truly be deemed “lucky,” but George Horton was fortunate to live where he did. When he was growing up, literacy was not yet against the law for slaves. Fascinated by the power of words, Horton taught himself to read and began composing verses. His owner eventually allowed him to live in nearby Chapel Hill and work as a writer. His earnings were not his own, and he deeply felt the pain of his circumstances, but writing poems and living among educated people was better than the back-breaking labor most slaves performed. Straightforward, accessible text covers the basic facts and evokes, albeit in an understated way, the hardships Horton faced. Created in mixed media, including gouache, pencil, ink, and digital, luminous illustrations provide context and convey emotion. Double-page spreads, insets, and vignettes show George as he ages and moves from the rural life of his childhood to town and, for a brief period, out West.
While the author justifiably bemoans the disproportionate number of titles about African-Americans that focus on slavery, his decision to illuminate this remarkable man’s life offers a new perspective with remarkable clarity. (bibliography, author’s note, acknowledgements) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)