Phillis Wheatley (.. - December 05, 1784)
Died: 5th December, 1784
Nationality: American poet
Region: Senegal?, Boston, Massachusetts
Notable works: "Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley", "On Being Brought from Africa to America", "An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine...George Whitefield", "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral"

Phillis Wheatley Facts

Biography

Phillis Wheatley, (born c. 1753, present-day Senegal?, West Africa--died December 5, 1784, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.), the first black woman poet of note in the United States.

The young girl who was to become Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped and taken to Boston on a slave ship in 1761 and purchased by a tailor, John Wheatley, as a personal servant for his wife, Susanna. She was treated kindly in the Wheatley household, almost as a third child. The Wheatleys soon recognized her talents and gave her privileges unusual for a slave, allowing her to learn to read and write. In less than two years, under the tutelage of Susanna and her daughter, Phillis had mastered English; she went on to learn Greek and Latin and caused a stir among Boston scholars by translating a tale from Ovid. Beginning in her early teens she wrote exceptionally mature, if conventional, verse that was stylistically influenced by Neoclassical poets such as Alexander Pope and was largely concerned with morality, piety, and freedom.

Wheatley's first poem to appear in print was "On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin" (1767), but she did not become widely known until the publication of "An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine...George Whitefield" (1770), a tribute to Whitefield, a popular preacher with whom she may have been personally acquainted. The piece is typical of Wheatley's poetic oeuvre both in its formal reliance on couplets and in its genre; more than one-third of her extant works are elegies to prominent figures or friends. A number of her other poems celebrate the nascent United States of America, whose struggle for independence was sometimes employed as a metaphor for spiritual or, more subtly, racial freedom. Though Wheatley generally avoided the topic of slavery in her poetry, her best-known work, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" (written 1768), contains a mild rebuke toward some white readers: "Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain / May be refined, and join th' angelic train." Other notable poems include "To the University of Cambridge, in New England" (written 1767), "To the King's Most Excellent Majesty" (written 1768), and "On the Death of Rev. Dr. Sewall" (written 1769).

Phillis was escorted by the Wheatleys' son to London in May 1773. Her first book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, where many of her poems first saw print, was published there the same year. Wheatley's personal qualities, even more than her literary talent, contributed to her great social success in London. She returned to Boston in September because of the illness of her mistress. At the desire of friends she had made in England, she was soon freed. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley died shortly thereafter. In 1778 she married John Peters, a free black man who eventually abandoned her. Though she continued writing, fewer than five new poems were published after her marriage. At the end of her life Wheatley was working as a servant, and she died in poverty.

Two books issued posthumously were Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley (1834)--in which Margaretta Matilda Odell, a collateral descendant of Susanna Wheatley, provides a short biography of Phillis as a preface to a collection of her poems--and Letters of Phillis Wheatley, the Negro Slave-Poet of Boston (1864). Wheatley's work was frequently cited by abolitionists to combat the charge of innate intellectual inferiority among blacks and to promote educational opportunities for African Americans.

Phillis Wheatley essays

Read more informative topics on our blog
A Little Backdrop On The Author Of Liberty And Tranquility Essay
A little history on the publisher of "Liberty and Peace" Mrs. Phillis Wheatley the girl was delivered to the America in the 1700's from west Africa pertaining to slavery. However , she was only seven years old and end up in Boston instead of the south additional slaves. It had been there where her fictional talents had been discovered simply by her servant masters the Wheatley's. Your woman was educated to read and write such as the other kids within the Wheatley's household. Her first released poem i visited the age of tough luck told the storyplot of rescue at ocean and..
Subscribe to our updates
79 345 subscribers already with us

Related authors

Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera, (born April 1, 1929, Brno, Czechoslovakia [now in Czech Republic]), Czech novelist,..
Arthur Young
Arthur Young
Arthur Young, (born Sept. 11, 1741, London, Eng.--died April 20, 1820, London), prolific English..
Harper Lee
Harper Lee
Harper Lee, in full Nelle Harper Lee, (born April 28, 1926, Monroeville, Alabama, U.S.--died February..
Jose Lezama Lima
Jose Lezama Lima
Jose Lezama Lima, (born December 19, 1910, near Havana, Cuba--died August 9, 1976, Havana), Cuban..
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti, (born July 7, 1911, Cadegliano, Italy--died Feb. 1, 2007, Monaco), Italian..
Seymour Hersh
Seymour Hersh
Seymour Hersh, in full Seymour Myron Hersh, (born April 8, 1937, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), American..
Mortimer J. Adler
Mortimer J. Adler
Mortimer J. Adler, in full Mortimer Jerome Adler, (born December 28, 1902, New York, New York, U.S.--died..
Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crevecoeur
Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crevecoeur
Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crevecoeur, also called Hector Saint John de Crevecoeur or (especially..
Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan, in full Ian Russell McEwan, (born June 21, 1948, Aldershot, England), British novelist,..
Genevieve Taggard
Genevieve Taggard
Genevieve Taggard, (born November 28, 1894, Waitsburg, Washington, U.S.--died November 8, 1948,..
Anne Carson
Anne Carson
Anne Carson, (born June 21, 1950, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Canadian poet, essayist, translator,..
Jules Romains
Jules Romains
Jules Romains, pseudonym of Louis-Henri-Jean Farigoule, (born August 26, 1885, Saint-Julien-Chapteuil,..
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein, (born Feb. 3, 1874, Allegheny City [now in Pittsburgh], Pa., U.S.--died July 27,..
Quintus Ennius
Quintus Ennius
Quintus Ennius, (born 239 bc, Rudiae, southern Italy--died 169 bc), epic poet, dramatist, and satirist,..
Sara Paretsky
Sara Paretsky
Sara Paretsky, (born June 8, 1947, Ames, Iowa, U.S.), American mystery writer known for her popular..
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal, original name Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr., (born October 3, 1925, West Point, New York,..
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren, nee Mercy Otis, (born September 14 [September 25, New Style], 1728, Barnstable,..
Basho
Basho
Basho, in full Matsuo Basho, pseudonym of Matsuo Munefusa, (born 1644, Ueno, Iga province, Japan--died..
Anatole France
Anatole France
Anatole France, pseudonym of Jacques-Anatole-Francois Thibault, (born April 16, 1844, Paris,..
John Irving
John Irving
John Irving, in full John Winslow Irving, original name John Wallace Blunt, Jr., (born March 2, 1942,..