Chapel Hill: Opinion

The Conversation: Valerie Yow, Jennifer Martin Smith ... and welcome, Pam Saulsby!

Come learn about life of a slave poet

We have few ways to know what a man who was a slave in our part of the country in the 1800s was thinking and feeling. George Moses Horton, a slave in Chatham County, speaks to us through his poetry and his struggle to attain freedom: this is the essence of the program the Chapel Hill Historical Society presents in a Sunday afternoon program, Feb. 15.

Horton was born in Northampton County in 1797. As a child he was moved to a tobacco plantation in Chatham County owned by George Horton and there he worked for most of his life. At a time when slaves were forbidden by the North Carolina legislature to learn to read and write, he taught himself to read. He could not write, however, and so he memorized his poems, which he composed as he plowed.

Caroline Hentz, the wife of a University of North Carolina professor, taught him to write. Sometimes on Saturdays, George Moses Horton would come to Chapel Hill to sell his master’s produce. There he attracted the attention of students who paid him 25 to 50 cents to write love poems to their ladies. The slave persuaded his master to let him go to Chapel Hill regularly and paid him for this permission. He walked the eight miles to Chapel Hill and became such close friends with students that they lent him books, enabling him to acquire an education.

His poems go far beyond love lyrics: they express his feelings about American slavery and his love for the land, as well as his pleasures and anxieties and even such events as snap beans for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Critics call this poem “Snaps” a “rollicking” poem.

The Chapel Hill Historical Society will present the fascinating life story and poetry of this talented poet as part of the celebration of Black History Month. Historian and professor Trudier Harris will describe his life and place his poems in the context of other literary work of his time and place. His poems will be introduced and read by the well-known performer, Marion Phillips. The program will begin and end with banjo music of the period played by local musician Ninian Beall. Come join us as the Chapel Hill Historical Society celebrates George Moses Horton, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, at the Chapel Hill Public Library. Free and open to the public.

Valerie Yow

Chapel Hill Historical Society

Welcome, Pam

Editor’s note: Sunday’s debut column by former TV newscaster Pam Saulsby generated lots of buzz on our websites and editor Mark Schultz’s Facebook page.

Diane Wright: Wow! She is sharp and perceptive. I wish I knew her and could be her friend!

Betsy Muse: Beautiful! I look forward to reading what she shares. I didn’t know her as a news anchor, but I am delighted to find her column this morning.

Charlie Reece: I'm really excited to see where this new path takes Pam Saulsby!

Ruby Sinreich: I love everything I've seen about the Real Pam Saulsby. Can't wait to hear more from her.

Don Barefoot: A true talent and more than that a great friend

Mary-Ann Baldwin: Thank you for giving Pam Saulsby a platform. She rocks.

Brian Thornburg: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” - Hans Hoffman (Good luck on the next part of your journey, Pam)

Danny Gotham: GREAT news!

Kathy Gunn: I heard a song of hers on WNCU yesterday – lots of new chapters unfolding! She's so very inspirational.

Margaret Gifford: I may have to move back to Chapel Hill so I can easily read the hard copy with Pam’s byline! Love her!

Jan Schochet: Woo hoo. Love Pam Saulsby. She will have a following wherever she goes in the Triangle.

Al Ada: The grapes are sour.

Sharon Whitlatch: I think we all have a final trigger moment that stops us, still in our tracks. If you slow down long enough to think about it, you realize your busy life was just a role you played. We often take on the personality of the role as well as the ego. 50 comes along, and God sends up a message that it’s time to get real. I’m glad Pam is listening

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Tests fail students

Regarding Tom Forcella’s commentary “New school grading system shortchanges student growth” (CHN, )

As a resident of Florida where the school grading system has been in place for over a decade, and as a mother of two boys who were subjected to the narrowed, worthless curriculum and over-testing with a faulty test, I can tell you this system does not work and does the opposite of what those pushing accountability says it does.

My kids got a dumbed down, one-size-fits-all education that didn’t prepare them for college. When my son applied to the University of Florida, an admissions representative told a group of parents at the school tour that UF hated all the testing because kids were coming into college unprepared, and from what I saw after my kids and their friends went to college, that was a true statement.

Also, Motorola engineers at the Florida plant had a mantra they repeated continuously as they watched Motorola implode due to over-reliance on an accountability system very similar to the school accountability system, “be careful what you measure” and “the metrics become the goal.”

Accountability systems were designed for the manufacturing of products to reduce defects so all are exactly alike; people (teachers, students, employees) are not products, don’t have defects that need to be eliminated, and are not all the same with the same needs, abilities and desires. School accountability systems do not and cannot measure what the public thinks they measure.

Jennifer Martin Smith